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Saturday, December 29, 2018

Heading to 2019 and Four Reviews

Hope everyone had a Merry Christmas!   

Catching up on all the blogs I usually keep track of proved a bit too much after nearly a full week away from home while we were all gathered down at the camp.  I gave up trying because there is still stuff to do and finish up at the end of the year.  

After the hectic Christmas activities, everyone needs a little time to recover and reflect as one year ends and another is quickly coming around.  I'm considering taking another break from FB, and from constantly checking the news as a New Year's Resolution.  It wasn't too difficult down in the country because there was no WiFi, but now that I'm home, it is proving difficult.  

December reading:

Betty Church and the Suffolk Vampire  by M.R.C. Kasasian features Betty Church as one of the first women Detective Inspectors in 1939.  After losing part of her arm, Betty leaves the Metropolitan Police for her home village in Suffolk.  Expecting little activity in the sleepy backwater village, she becomes entangled with a number of strange murders.

I found the characters all a bit too eccentric for my taste.  Betty is the only one who has any common sense--all the others are caricatures.  Her constables are annoying in their idiocy, her boss has PTSD, her parents are clueless and irritating, and Dodo Chivers is exasperatingly tiresome.  

Had it been shorter and not trying so hard, I might have liked it better.   

NetGalley/Head of Zeus
Historical Mystery.  Feb. 7, 2019.  Print length:  432 pages!

Silent Suspect by Kerry Wilkinson is the 13th installment in Wilkinson's Jessica Daniel series.  Jessica's friend Bex has been missing for three months when she gets a phone call and the only word spoken is "Jessica" before the call ends.  But it is Bex's voice.  

The call is from a public phone booth in Blackpool, and as soon as Jessica traces the call, she is off to the seaside town in search of Bex.  Things get strange as soon as Jessica locates the phone booth and sees a poster of a missing young woman who is similar in appearance to Bex.

She calls the number on the poster and agrees to meet a man who says the missing girl is his sister.  On meeting the man, Jessica feels a little uncomfortable and no further in her attempt to locate her friend.  The next morning, she is awakened by police.  The man she met with has been found dead on the beach.

Now Jessica is not only still searching for Bex, but is a suspect in the man's death.

An interesting side story includes Jessica seeking help from Andrew Hunter, the PI in another series by Wilkinson.  Other than the help from Hunter, Jessica is cut off from her home base of Manchester and her friends on the force.  Her search for Bex has led her into complex criminal activity and an attempt to frame her for murder.

Another winner from Kerry Wilkinson.  :)

Detective fiction/Suspense.  Jan. 14, 2019.  Print length:  316 pages.

Victoria Jenkins is an Australian crime writer and this is the fourth in her series with Detectives Alex King and Chloe Lane.   I haven't read any of the previous books, but A Promise to the Dead functions as a stand-alone. 

A young couple run out of gas in an isolated area.  Matthew leaves his girlfriend in the car as he searches for help.  Unfortunately, he winds up seeing something he wasn't supposed to and the next morning he is missing and his girlfriend is dead.

Alex and Chloe have another case of a missing young man, and then the discovery of a body that proves to be that of a young man who went missing thirty years ago.  Are the three cases connected?  Two recent disappearances and the remains of a young man from decades past keep the team trying to unravel the puzzle.

Police Procedural.  Jan. 21, 2019.  
Code Name: Lise by Larry Loftis.  Odette Sansom Hallowes is also known as Odette Churchill and was recruited by the SOE in 1942.

My problem with this biography are the "conversations."  While some of these can be documented in general, using this as dialogue feels too much like fiction.  I prefer a third person account unless conversations can be documented verbatim with appropriate footnotes.

Odette Sansom was a French woman married to an Englishman and joined the SOE in 1942.

I did like the references to the SOE, Leo Marks, Colonel Buckmaster, and a few others because I was familiar with them from other books about the SOE.  It was  a bit disconcerting to get to the end and read the criticism of some historians in regard to Odette's service.  While I admire the author for including the controversy, it left me a little unsettled about the roles of Odette and Peter Churchill.  

An intriguing look at the lives of some of the agents in occupied France, Code Name: Lise 
examines the service of one of the most famous of the SOE agents and one who survived Ravensbruck concentration camp.

If you are interested in the SOE and the intelligence operations in Europe I can recommend Leo Marks' Between Silk and Cyanide.

  The purpose of the SOE was "to conduct espionagesabotage and reconnaissance in occupied Europe (and later, also in occupied Southeast Asia) against the Axis powers, and to aid local resistance movements."

 Leo Marks, a cryptographer, headed the code department " supporting resistance agents in occupied Europe for the secret Special Operations Executive organisation" while Maurice Buckmaster was the head of "F" section.  

Also another book about an SOE agent in France is Nancy Wake by Russel Braddon.

Read in October.

NetGalley/Gallery Books
History/WWII/Espionage.  Jan. 15, 2019.  Print length:  384 pages.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

The Burglar by Thomas Perry

The Burglar is my first book by Thomas Perry, and I chose it because when Verushka mentioned it on her blog, I thought it sounded like fun. 

Elle is young, small, and fit.  Being small is a good thing when you want to burgle a house and entry through a doggy door presents no problem.   Elle is a professional; she knows the skills of the trade from the burglary itself to the right fence for the goods.

However, when Elle burgles the home of an art dealer, she discovers a triple homicide and a camera still running on the scene.  What to do?  She takes the camera, edits out her own presence, and returns it for the police to find.  

Unfortunately, her attempt to aid the the police in finding out who committed the murders goes awry, and Elle finds herself a target.

Read in July; blog review scheduled for Dec. 26.

NetGalley/Grove Atlantic/Mysterious Press

Suspense.  Jan. 8, 2019.  Print length:  304 pages.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

The Collector by Fiona Cummins and Snakehead by Peter May

The Collector by Fiona Cummins continues the story of the "Bone Collector" introduced in a previous novel which I haven't read.  Brian Howley (the Night Man/Mr. Silver/the Collector) is a serial killer, and not just a serial killer, but one who collects physical anomalies. 

Ok.  Evil serial killer thinks he has found an apprentice and an heir who will help him recapture the six-year-old boy who got away and who will appreciate his murders and fetish-like collection of oddities.  

Young Saul Anguish (how's that for a name?) is an intriguing character, but it seems far-fetched to believe Howley could target a teenager and groom him as an apprentice in such a short time.
Saul has enough emotional and personal problems to make the corruption possible, but he does have a sense of right and wrong despite the complications in his life--and to pervert him completely in two or three days created a problem for me.  Brian Howley's father had years to make his son, a captive audience, into a serial killer, so expecting a teenager to be converted overnight is a bit much to ask.  

Strangely, the detective Etta Fizgerald, the protagonist of the first book, has a relatively small presence.  She's important, but she doesn't have that much time in the plot. The children, Jakey and Clara, are sympathetically rendered.  

The book had a lot of possibilities to be something more, but makes the bizarre and gruesome the main interest.  (I just looked at the reviews on Goodreads, and they are all very positive.  However, I'm not a fan of making grisly and macabre the basis of a plot.)

NetGalley/Kensington Books
Serial Killer.  Dec. 18, 2018.  Print length:  400 pages.

Snakehead by Peter May is the 4th book in his China series.  Having enjoyed The Lewis Trilogy set in Scotland on the Isle of Lewis, I was expecting to like this more than I actually did.  

Description:  The macabre discovery of a truck full of dead Chinese in southern Texas brings together again the American pathologist Margaret Campbell with Li Yan, the Beijing detective with whom she once shared a turbulent personal and professional relationship. Forced back into an uneasy partnership, they set out to identify the Snakehead who is behind the 100-million-dollar trade in illegal Chinese immigrants which led to the tragedy in Texas - only to discover that the victims were also unwitting carriers of a deadly cargo. Li and Margaret have a biological time-bomb of unimaginable proportions on their hands, and an indiscriminate killer who threatens the future of humankind. 

I found the main characters a bit difficult to care about, not that I disliked them, I just wasn't really taken with them.  The basic idea of the plot is a good one, but the way the virus was to be triggered was weird.  Human trafficking is despicable, and obviously there is much more of it than I was aware of for most of my life; however, the fact that Li arrives from China to find the case involves his sister who has been trafficked for the sex trade is quite the coincidence.   

Read in Oct.

Mystery/Thriller.  Jan. 8, 2019.   Print length:  416 pages.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Murder at the Mill by M.B. Shaw

Murder at the Mill came in the mail and proved a surprisingly intense mystery.  Based on the cover, I was expecting a cozy Christmas tale, but discovered an exceptionally well-plotted, character-driven, complicated, and complex whodunnit.  

 In the sense that the story takes place in a small community with an amateur detective, Murder at the Mill fits into the cozy slot.  There are no serial killers, violence is downplayed, there are plenty of clues which are neither misleading nor definitely pointing to a particular suspect.  The clues keep the field open, and the reader must ponder the significance and weigh the possibilities.  Murder at the Mill doesn't rely on violence or graphic descriptions, it is a true puzzle of personalities and past events.  

The intricate plotting is typical of Agatha Christie, but the character development is much more layered and complex.  The author creates multifaceted personalities for all of the important characters and keeps the reader uncertain not only about the who, but also about the why.

Iris Grey, a portrait artist, takes a cottage in a small village to escape the stress of her failing marriage.  Her landlords are Ariadne and Dominic Wetherby.  Dominic is a celebrated writer of crime novels who has a large personality and a national reputation.  Ariadne is a sculptor, but that is only a small part of her life as she is the quintessential wife and mother figure--in love with her husband and devoted to her children.  The middle son, Billy has only recently been released from prison and is an angry and difficult young man.

Commissioned to paint a portrait of the celebrated Dom Wetherby,  Iris uses her artist's eye to examine not only her sitter, but the entire family.  Her skills of observation are called into play when Dom's body is pulled from the river and what appeared to be suicide becomes a murder investigation.

An intelligent puzzle of a contemporary mystery that combines a Golden Age of Detective Fiction vintage feel with three-dimensional characters.  Murder at the Mill kept me so involved that I felt almost like a presence in the novel.

M.B. Shaw is the pen name of Tilly Bagshawe.  

I can't wait for more in this brand new series, not only because I took such pleasure in the slow unfolding of the plot, but because Iris' next commissioned portrait is in Scotland.

ARC from Minotaur Books

Mystery.  Dec. 4, 2018.  387 pages.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Wrecked by Joe Ide and The Last of the Stanfields by Marc Levy

 Although I still haven't read the first in this series, NetGalley offered Wrecked, which is the third, and after enjoying Righteous, I decided proceed.

The violent prologue almost made me abandon ship before really setting sail.  Prologues have become de rigeur in recent years, and I'm finding fewer and fewer that I appreciate.  

The plot is pretty much a given early on and not so much mystery as suspense.  The CEO of the bad guys didn't seem smart enough to have pulled off all of the situations and his crew (back from his Abu Ghraib days) dislike him and taunt him.  But perhaps, like in business and politics, sometimes the least capable make their way to being in charge.  The whole mess of villains feel like a dark comedy of sinister and corrupt screw-ups--capable of despicable acts and carnage, but little else.  Do these folks exist?  Without question, we've seen this over and over.

What I did enjoy was the secondary characters:  Dodson, Deronda, and T.K.  The sub-plots associated with these characters are the most enjoyable, but the romance element with IQ and Grace fell short for me.

I still want to read the first book, and I will give the next book a chance before deciding whether or not I want to continue the series.

NetGalley/Mulholland Books
PI/Suspense.  Oct. 9, 2018.  Print length:  352 pages.

The Last of the Stanfields by Marc Levy (translated by Daniel Wassermand) was my first book by Marc Levy, but I hope to read more.

From description:  A mystery, a love story, and a search through a shadowy past. Two strangers unite in this novel of family secrets by international bestselling author Marc Levy, the most read contemporary French author in the world. 

Why did I choose to read this one?  I couldn't resist the names of the protagonists (Eleanor-Rigby Donovan and George-Harrison Collins); anonymous letters sent to the main characters (I love anonymous letters that send characters into researching the past); a plot with three time periods that aren't confusing; and the family relationships (especially with the Donovans).

Although there are some dark moments, the overall narrative is ultimately upbeat.   Strange and somehow comforting, the investigation into the past reveals all of the shortcomings and flaws in human nature in ways that are understandable.  

Kindle First Reads
Mystery/Family drama.  Jan. 1, 2019.  Print length:  384 pages.

I've been scheduling reviews for some of the books that aren't due out for several months.
Here are some of my favorites.

The Plotters by Un-Su Kim
The Stranger Diaries by Elly Griffiths
Who Slays the Wicked (Sebastian St. Cyr) by C.S. Harris
Turning Secrets by Brenda Chapman

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

The Boy by Tami Hoag and Broken Ground by Val McDermid

Tami Hoag's The Boy is the second in a series featuring Nick Fourcade and Annie Broussard.  I haven't read the first in the series, but it wasn't necessary as the book works as a standalone. 

A murdered child, a severely injured and grieving mother, a missing twelve-year-old.  Complicating the investigation(s) is a dubious crime scene team and a sheriff whose image is more important than anything else.

Fourcade and Broussard try to resolve the conflicting elements in the murder, but complications continue to pop up.  Kelvin Dutrow, the new sheriff, overrides Fourcade's attempt at a crime scene perimeter, exacerbating a personality conflict that already was detrimental to the sheriff's department and only gets worse and more personal.

At the heart of the case, when all is said and done, is the damage, psychological and physical, that results in a ripple effect from a destructive and controlling personality.  Hoag cleverly weaves the strands together to what initially would seem a surprising outcome.

Nick Fourcade doesn't really resonate with me, but the byways the novel takes concerning cheating, spousal abuse, and bullying provide food for thought, and the plot is intricate and well written.

I really want another Sam Kovacs and Nikki Liska novel, which is my favorite Hoag series.  

NetGalley/Penguin Group

Mystery/Crime.  Dec. 31, 2018.  Print length:  496 pages.  

Broken Ground by Val McDermid returns to cold case detective Karen Pirie.   It is hard to pick a favorite among McDermid's series, but I do like Detective Chief Inspector Karen Pirie, Jason, and the Historic Cases Unit.  

Karen Pirie is sarcastic and often brash, and her dislike for her boss creates a problematic atmosphere--especially when her boss assigns a snitch to her unit.

When a young woman searching for the WWII motorcycles her grandfather buried in a peat bog after the war discovers the body of a man who has been missing for years, Karen's investigation into the cold case of a rape victim is interrupted.  In addition to these two cases, Karen overhears a conversation in which a woman tells her friend that she intends to confront her abusive husband.  Stepping in to warn the woman that she might be putting herself in danger, Karen hopes she has kept the woman safe.  Uh oh.  Best laid plans and all that.

McDermid never disappoints.  Her characters feel genuine and her knowledge of forensics goes a long way to giving her plots a sense of realism.

Read in August.

NetGalley/Grove Atlantic

British Detectives/Cold Cases.  Dec. 4, 2018.  Print length:  432 pages.  

The garden has been put to bed, the Christmas crafting has begun.  Last year, I was all about making snow folks and a Christmas cat, this year mice are in progress.

Two were gifts for our daughters last Christmas,
one was for me.

The cat was for granddaughter Bryce Eleanor,
the latest incarnation of the "cat lady." 

I intended to get started on Christmas crafting early.  Of course, I say that every year, but don't feel like making for a holiday until close to the actual month.  

Friday, November 30, 2018

He Is Watching You by Charlie Gallagher and Dear Laura by Jean Stubbs

From description:  "A young woman’s body is left in a metal container in a remote location. The killer is careful to position her under a camera that links to his smartphone. He likes to look back at his work."

I liked the two main characters, DI Blaker and DS Maddie Ives, in this new series.  Blaker is the older more experienced detective; Maddie, whose undercover role in Manchester has been exposed, is the unhappy new member of the  department in Lennockshire.

A hit and run, a missing person's case, and a serial killer--how are these three connected?  Well, the reader is knows, but the detectives have to figure it out.

Harry Blaker is a bit of a curmudgeon; Maddie Ives is the wild card.   I enjoyed the characters--who are both interesting-- more than the plot.  

NetGalley/Joffe Books

Detective Fiction.  Nov. 20, 2018.  Print length:  317 pages.

Dear Laura is a Victorian mystery that introduces the engaging, but shrewd  and perceptive Inspector Lintott. 

Surprisingly, Detective Lintott doesn't really make an appearance until about half way through the book.  The first half of the book introduces the characters in the house hold of Theodore Crozier.  Crozier, his wife, his brother, and the household servants are presented in both current situations and situations which provide background for the characters.

Initially, Theodore Crozier's death is thought to have been caused by an aneurysm, but anonymous letters imply something else.  Suicide?  Murder?

When the cause of death comes into question, Scotland Yard's Inspector Lintott is called in.  He has an interesting interview method and good insight into character, but he also finds himself reconsidering some of his opinions as he learns more.  He doesn't stick with first assumptions, but alters his investigation with new information.  

What I particularly loved about him is when he made a comment completely in keeping with Victorian values, but later, despite his initial response, begins a deeper understanding of the situation.   Even today, men have opinions about women and their place, and many are incapable of seeing past the views they have adopted.  Lintott is no feminist, but he allows a change in his attitude and convictions because he examines his opinions.  He may not approve, but he comes to understand certain situations.

The twist at the very end is not exactly a surprise, but I was never certain  that it would end as I sometimes expected.  

I thoroughly enjoyed this historical mystery and Inspector Lintott and was surprised to realize when I finished that the book was first published in 1974.  One advantage to any historical novel is that it is less likely to feel dated.  :)

NetGalley/Sapere Books

Historical Mystery.   1974.  Nov. 1, 2018.  Print length:  267 pages.
And a list of five most under appreciated crime writers.  I haven't read any of these authors, but I did see and appreciate Winter's Bone, the film based on the novel by Daniel Woodrell.   Have you read any of the five authors?

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Righteous by Joe Ide

In this hotly anticipated follow-up to the smash hit IQ, a New York Times Critics' Best of the Year and winner of the Anthony, Macavity, and Shamus Awards, Isaiah uncovers a secret behind the death of his brother, Marcus.

I haven't read the first in this series, but IQ or Isaiah Quintabe is still trying to find out who killed his brother eight years ago. One plot line continues his investigation into his brother's death;  the other has Isaiah and Dodson on a trip to Las Vegas to rescue a couple whose gambling addiction has put them in big trouble.  They owe money to a loan shark, and in order to pay him, they have hacked the accounts of a Chinese triad.  Frying pan.  Fire. 

What I liked:  The characters. There are many interesting characters including Dodson, Deronda, and TK; I.Q. is the center that holds the diverse group together.  I enjoyed the  allusions to Sherlock Holmes and there is plenty of wit and humor and amusing banter amid the danger and darker elements of the story.  

 Joe Ide is a Japanese-American who grew up in the neighborhood he describes.  From an interview with Ide:

"Growing up, Mr. Ide lived in two worlds: At home, his stern grandfather collected samurai swords and spoke no English; outside he had mostly black friends. He was never completely at ease in either place, but the experience taught him how to decipher people and how to blend in."  (Raised in South Central, Joe Ide Expands the Territory of L.A. Noir)

The interview gives an intriguing view of a man who grew up in contrasting cultures.

I need to read IQ, the first in the series, but Righteous (book 2) was offered through NetGalley, and after reading Kay's review, I decided to dive in.  

NetGalley/Mulholland Books
Detective Fiction.  2017.  Print length:  336 pages.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Something Hidden by Kerry Wilkinson

Something Hidden (Andrew Hunter #2).

Andrew Hunter, a private investigator, ends up investigating a variety of cases--from missing cats to far more serious circumstances.  He's a bit of a push-over and doesn't always get paid for his work, but it doesn't bother him as he doesn't really need the money.   Jenny,  Andrew's assistant, is actually the more intriguing character.  

Jenny has a lack of empathy; she is unable to understand the emotions of others and therefore, unable to empathize.  She is trying to learn and mirror behavior, and it isn't clear whether she is actually developing an ability to empathize or simply trying to seem normal.  She is bright and funny and fearless.  The fearlessness (also a part of her inability to feel  things the way others do) can be dangerous.

Two separate cases confront the two in this book, the search for extremely expensive Bengal cats (a breed developed to look like their more exotic cousins in the wild) and the search for answers for a young woman who doesn't want to believe her father murdered two people and killed himself.  The second case takes both Andrew and Jenny into a treacherous and unexpected waters.  

More of the backgrounds of both Andrew and Jenny come to light in this installment. Details of Andrew's marriage and divorce get more focus and hints about events in Jenny's past and a twist concerning Jenny at the end.

I particularly enjoyed Jenny's interactions with Andrew's eccentric Aunt Gem; they seem to have formed a connection that is outside of Jenny's emotional range.  Is she genuinely expanding her narrow emotional confines or is it part of her attempts to behave like others?

I still prefer Wilkinson's Jessica Daniel series, but Andrew Hunter and Jenny's opposing personalities are involving.  No romantic relationship here, Andrew is still in love with his ex-wife, but Andrew and Jenny make an interesting pair.

Review scheduled for Nov. 22.


Mystery/PI.  Dec. 10, 2018.  Originally published 2016.  Print length:  353 pages.


Monday, November 19, 2018

An Assortment of Mystery, Fantasy, and Thriller

This is the 13th (or strangely, according to one source the 23rd) installment of the Posada County Mysteries, and I probably would have enjoyed it more if I'd read the previous entries and had a connection with the characters.  Lies Come Easy does function as a stand-alone, however, with the plot contained within the pages of the book, but I suspect that many fans of the series have developed a relationship with the characters.  I know I feel that way about quite a few of my favorite series.

 A short-staffed Sheriff's Department, a toddler left on a highway in frigid weather, a murder or two, an interesting setting near the border of New Mexico.  

Read in August.  Blog review scheduled for Nov. 19.

NetGalley/Poisoned Pen Press

Mystery.  Nov. 20, 2018.   

Recently, Wendy reviewed The King Slayer and noted that the first book was The Witch Hunter.  A witchy novel suited my reading goal so I tried it...and liked it.

The Witch Hunter is a YA novel set in a fictional England in which magic users were persecuted and burned at the stake.  Sixteen-year-old Elizabeth Grey has proven herself to be one of the best of Lord Blackwell's elite group of witch hunters...until she is accused of witchcraft, thrown in jail, and awaiting her own burning.  Of course, she is rescued, but by a wizard--the highest target on the Inquisitor's list!

It isn't complex and is definitely a YA novel, but I enjoyed the adventure.  Despite the lack of depth (and forget any comparison to Game of Thrones),  TWH was a fun, fast-paced adventure suitable for the 8 grade recommendation.

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

YA Fantasy.  2015.  Print length:  380 pages.

Some Die Nameless brings focus to the private security and military defense contractors like Black Water.  (Also interesting is that Erik Prince, Blackwater's founder. is the brother of Betsy DeVos.)

Some Die Nameless is an intense thriller in which the past comes back to haunt members of a team of men who worked for a security-for-hire corporation.  Working as a defense contractor, the company sends mercenaries to train others for war.  Ray Devlin, now retired, was part of three-man group sent to a South American country to help  the opposition overthrow a dictator.  Of course, the replacement is equally corrupt and brutal.

The wealthy head of the corporation, seeking more political power and wealth through the reelection of a certain senator, decides to eliminate the men involved in the South American paramilitary operation.  Although these men don't know all of the machinations involved in the operation, they are a weak link in the chain.

Ray escapes an attempt on his life and visits  Colin Roarke, one of the other men involved in the operation, to see if he has any idea of what was going on.  Roarke is short on answers, surprised that one of their former friends had tried to kill Ray.  Shortly after Ray leaves, Roarke, along with several innocent victims is murdered.

Tracy Quinn, a journalist, is already investigating a story that involves a murdered man who also has a connection to the Latin American fiasco.  The two team up and both are in danger.

Ray Devlin, trying to see how the past has influenced the threat to his life, and Tracy Quinn, the committed journalist in a dying profession, make an interesting pair as they work to stay alive and make headway against an assassin and the man who sent him.

The plot is fast and furious, the use of private corporations to fight wars the U.S doesn't want to be connected to, and the effect of profit and corruption in the political arena are all worth thinking about.

Wallace Stroby is an award-winning journalist and the author of seven novels, four of which feature Crissa Stone, the professional thief labeled "crime fiction's best bad girl ever." 

This one was recommended by James Thane, and I am now interested in reading about Crissa Stone. 

NetGalley/Mulholland Books

Mystery/Thriller.  July 10, 2018.  Print length:  341 pages.  

Have you read any of these books or authors?

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Interesting Bookish Articles

The Best Recent Crime Novels--review roundup  The only one I've read is The Stranger Diaries by Elly Griffiths, which kept me uncertain the entire time.  I didn't  know whodunnit until the end.  Suspense and great literary allusions and an eerie Gothic vibe throughout.  

9 Ways of Looking at Sherlock.
    Beyond helping us feel better about our own status as outsiders, Sherlock is also a figure that brings the whole mystery community together. Conan Doyle’s work has been appreciated by generations of crime and mystery fans, in a variety of ways specific to those generations and universal to fans through time. We decided, as the year draws to a close, to gather a variety of these interpretations of Sherlock together, to showcase the vast breadth of Sherlockian fandom. 

As a fan of any good Sherlock pastiche and of several of the authors of the various essays, I'm all over these.    :)

 Adding to the Espionage Canon.  Recommended fiction and nonfiction for the espionage genre.  I read and enjoyed Leo Marks' Between Silk and Cyanide:  A Codemaker's War, 1941-1945  several years ago and recently saw a reference to Marks in a biography of the SOE agent Odette Sansom.  Leo Marks' father owned 84 Charing Cross Road, the bookshop made famous by Helene Hanff.  

Thursday, November 15, 2018

A Police Procedural and Two Fantasies

DS Gemma Woodstock has moved to Melbourne after the harrowing experiences in Sarah Bailey's previous novel The Dark Lake.

Unfortunately, her attempts to start fresh are stymied by her troubled personality.  Drinking too much, one night stands, lonely in a new city, and guilty for leaving her son Ben with his father, Gemma has brought her problems with her.

Despite having really liked The Dark Lake and expecting to feel the same about this one, I didn't have the sense of involvement.  Into the Night doesn't have the same absorbing quality that made her first novel stand out for me.

Read in September.  Review scheduled for Nov. 15.  

NetGalley/Grand Central Publishing

Police Procedural.  Dec. 4, 2018.  Print length:  416 pages.

Hmmm.  Didn't realize I never reviewed Mirror Gate, the second in the Harbinger series by Jeff Wheeler.  I didn't read Storm Glass the first in the series, which is a bit strange as I've read everything I possibly could by Wheeler and eagerly awaited the next.  I went through the King Fountain series with bated breath because I loved the characters and the plots were so compelling.

Anyway, I didn't feel any loss at not having read the first book, as I quickly settled in with Sera and Cettie, the setting, and the plot.

Wheeler has a particular aptitude with characters, both the main protagonists and the secondary characters emerge with depth and dimension.  He also excels at world-building, especially the cultural and political elements of the worlds he creates.  

Sera, a princess, and Cettie, a homeless waif, are both lonely girls who end up together at a school for the "mysteries."  Their friendship develops although their dreams, abilities, and goals are different.  

In Mirror Gate, Sera's difficulties with her father take a turn for the worse when her grandfather the king dies, and her father is determined to take the reins and eliminate any competition from Sera.

As Sera and Cettie are preparing for their tests in the mysteries, Sera makes a serious misstep that will result in consequences that will change her perspective.  Cettie continues to grow stronger in her abilities and must face a supernatural foe.

NetGalley/47 North

YA Fantasy.  Aug. 28, 2018.  Print length:  348 pages.

Iron Garland continues the adventures three years later; the war with King Fountain has been calamitous.  Both girls have developed into stronger versions of their personalities.  Sera has learned to bide her time and control her impulses; Cettie, whose skills are crucial in the war with King Fountain, has learned how to handle those who would pressure her.

The possibility of a negotiated end to the war has been floated and will require a sacrifice on Sera's part.  

Fully fleshed characters and engrossing plots make Wheeler's work stand out, and I'm glad to see the connection with King Fountain becoming a significant part of the story.

Read in September.  Review scheduled for

NetGalley/47 North

YA Fantasy.  Nov. 13, 2018.  Print length:  352 pages.  

Sunday, November 11, 2018

The Gods of Gotham by Lyndsay Faye

The Gods of Gotham (Timothy Wilde #1) by Lyndsay Faye 

From description:  1845. New York City forms its first police force. The great potato famine hits Ireland. These two seemingly disparate events will change New York City. Forever. 

Timothy Wilde, a young bar tender, has saved his money and hopes to eventually be worthy of asking Mercy Underhill to marry him.  A devastating fire burns his dreams to ash.  His money is gone, his imagined future destroyed, his face disfigured.

Now jobless and homeless, his brother Valentine signs him up with the newly created "copper stars," and a reluctant Timothy becomes part of what will become the NYPD.  The idea of a police force is anathema to many and distrusted by more.  

Political corruption is rife, and Timothy's brother is deeply involve in political high jinks; the setting is largely in areas of extreme poverty, crime, and debauchery; religious and racial divides are extreme, bitter, and dangerous; the immigration problem of the time was the influx of the detested Irish.

Chapters are preceded by excerpts from political and religious tracts of the time and letters excoriating Catholics and Irish.  The Gotham that Faye creates is rich in historical (and often extremely unpleasant) details: homeless children, poverty, corruption, drug use, sexual exploitation, and violence.

Plot:  During one of Timothy's rounds a young girl of about ten in a blood covered night gown runs into him.  Bird's presence will change everything for Timothy and leads to an investigation involving murdered children.  As it turns out, Timothy's strength is his persistent compulsion to solve crimes. 

While the mystery plot is interesting and twisty, just as intriguing is the look into the past in which so many of the problems present nearly 175 years ago are still prevalent today.  Faye's language and atmospheric creation of 1845 New York immerses the reader in an environment that feels genuine.  I will be reading more in this series.

Lyndsay Faye's Jane Steele, a fascinating re-imagining of Jane Eyre is also wonderful, evocative, and darkly funny.

And don't miss Faye's The Paragon Hotel, a stand alone that will be published in January.  Reader, I loved it.  


Historical Mystery.  2012.  Print length:  408 pages.

Thursday, November 08, 2018

Orphan X Series by Gregg Hurwitz

I read Orphan X by Gregg Hurwitz in July and really liked it so I continue the series.  My review of Orphan X.

A little background from a description:  As a boy, Evan Smoak was taken from a children's home, raised and trained as part of a secret government initiative buried so deep that virtually no one knows it exists. But he broke with the programme, choosing instead to vanish off grid and use his formidable skill set to help those unable to protect themselves.

The Nowhere Man proved to be less interesting.  Evan has been drugged, kidnapped, and imprisoned in luxury in an isolated location.   The majority of the book is one ingenious (failed) escape attempt after another.  Evan must escape in order to continue his mission to save a young girl, but the plot became repetitive with one escape attempt after another.  Of course, in the end he does escape and save the day, but while I wanted to believe events in the first book, The Nowhere Man was just too far-fetched for me.   

Despite having had problems with The Nowhere Man,  I was inclined to hope for more with the latest installment.  And Hellbent proved to renew my interest in the series.

Hellbent provides a little more background on Evan's relationship with Jack Johns, the father-figure and mentor who took the young boy and trained him as an assassin for the black ops, but also taught Evan to remain human.  Jack has recognized the corruption of the original Orphan Program and the attempt to terminate all of the Orphans.  Jack wants Evan to save his last protege.  

Joey, a sixteen-year-old girl and gifted hacker, is the current target of Charles Van Scriver, the Orphan in charge of terminating all traces of the program.  Joey is a handful, but she becomes a useful partner in this novel and a means for Evan to develop more emotional depth.  

In Out of the Dark, Evan (Orphan X) is prepared to go after the head of the snake--Jonathan Bennett, the man who originated the Orphan Program and has since decided to eliminate all of the Orphans and their trainers to protect himself.  The problem?  Jonathan Bennett has risen to the highest, most powerful position in the country.  Taking him down will not be easy.

To be successful, Evan needs help and gets it from the most unexpected place, an old enemy turned ally.  Candy will presumably appear in future books; she is a distinctive character with her own agenda.  Also interesting is Joey's appearance at her school in Switzerland--not exactly where you would expect to find her fitting in as seamlessly as she does, but all Orphans have a chameleon-like ability.  :)

I look forward to the next book, which will hopefully go back to the original mainstay of Evan helping those who find themselves in precarious situations.   The idea of each victim that "the Nowhere Man" helps giving his name to the next person in need of help allows a variety of settings, adventures, and characters.  

These are violent books that fit in the Thriller genre.  Orphan X is not realistic, but the plots are intense and with the exception of The Nowhere Man, I've been engrossed in each book.  My thanks to NetGalley for providing many hours of exciting plots and a variety of good and bad characters.