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Tuesday, May 29, 2018

The Woman in the Woods by John Connolly

The Woman in the Woods is the latest Charlie Parker novel.  Although I am not generally a fan of horror, the Charlie Parker novels combine excellent writing, compelling characters, suspenseful mystery, and the supernatural in an unusual amalgamation that makes me hold my breath each time.

Always: a battle of good vs evil with collateral damage on both sides, the loss of good people, characters that you come to love despite their decidedly criminal backgrounds, a creep factor that chills down to the bone, and usually some unexpected, but much appreciated humor.

Deep in the Maine woods, the body of a young woman who had recently given birth is discovered.  She has been buried for several years, but no infant body is found.  A star of David carved into a tree grabs the attention of lawyer Moxie Castin, who then convinces Charlie Parker to follow the investigation, and if the baby survived, to find it.  

The police are investigating, trying to identify the young woman, Charlie Parker is also searching, but there is someone else also looking for the young woman.  Someone not simply bad, but repellently evil.

Short chapters move back and forth between characters, the main plot, and secondary plots.  The roles of Louis and Angel are more limited in this one, but Louis is responsible for an inciting incident that plays into the larger plot later.  

"And in a house by the woods, a toy telephone begins to ring and a young boy is about to receive a call from a dead woman."  --from book description

Read in March.  Review scheduled for May 29

NetGalley/Atria Books

Crime/Mystery/Supernatural.  June 12, 2018.  Print length:  496 pages.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Mystery, History, Suspense

For Richer, For Poorer by Kerry Wilkinson is the latest in the series featuring DI Jessica Daniel. The current bothersome case involves home invasions and robberies of cash and jewelry involving unusual prior knowledge of the homes and their security systems.  The new DCI is frustrated and wants the robberies solved posthaste.  

If that were not bad enough, the day following each robbery, the police begin getting calls from various charities saying someone made huge anonymous donations in cash.  Are the thieves taking a page from the Robin Hood tales?

In another tangle, Bex asks Jessica to see if she can help a friend whose neighbor's activities are disturbing her...which leads to a revelation involving sex trafficking.  

Jessica is still dealing with the aftermath of events in the last book and a new DCI who doesn't appear to have much confidence in Jess or her abilities.

NetGalley/Book Outure

Crime/Detective Fiction.  May 15, 2018.  Print length:  354 pages.  

The Shadow Killer is set in Iceland in 1941 during the change over from the British to U.S. troops.  Tiny Iceland, which had been largely isolated, was first invaded by about 25,000 British troops.  When the novel begins, the British are about to depart and the Yanks are taking over in even larger numbers.

A time of great upheaval--the war, the Allied troops, the cultural and social confrontations.  A young man is found murdered with a bloody swastika on his forehead.  The weapon, a Colt 45, is associated with the American forces.

Flovent, an Icelandic policeman, and Thorson, a Canadian seconded to the American Military Police are united again in the investigation.  (I have not read The Shadow District, the first book in this series).  Both Flovent and Thorson are likable characters who lack the super-crime-solving abilities of many detectives.  They do the best they can in a difficult situation fraught with all kinds of social and political ramifications from both Icelandic and military interference.  

NetGalley/St. Martin's Press

Mystery/WWII.  May 29, 2018.  Print length:  368 pages.  

Never Alone is one of those tricksy novels meant to keep you uncertain.  One of those methods (I won't mention the technique) began to bother me early.  Something wasn't meshing, and I wondered why.  It wasn't long before the suspicion was...not exactly verified, but I began to realize that one of the blurbs I'd read had deliberately set up the wrong perspective.  

So.  A widow, Sara, struggling financially on an isolated Yorkshire farm.  An old flame, Aiden, returns to the area, but is intent on keeping his private life off-bounds.  Sara's daughter Kitty, who visits during university breaks.  Sara's son, Louis, who became alienated from Sara after his father's death.  Sophie, Sara's friend and confidante.  Will, a friend of Sara's son Louis, who arrives in the area after a long absence.

The bleak Yorkshire winter setting lends itself to suspense, but the story dawdled along for quite some time.  The bad guy isn't too difficult to detect, and once you do, you wonder why Sara is so slow to wise-up.  I also found an element of the story just--weird and uncomfortable.    

Myriad Editions ARC in the mail.

Suspense.  2016.  354 pages.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

A Sharp Solitude by Christine Carbo

I've been reading Christine Carbo's suspenseful novels set in Glacier National Park since NetGalley offered the first one (The Wild Inside) in 2015.  The natural beauty of the park and the often terrifying threats of the wilderness are always crucial elements in the novels.  The park itself is more than setting; it is character as well.

Carbo's tendency to take a minor character from one novel and give him or her a lead in the next novel is much the same as in Tana French's novels.  This penchant of developing secondary characters contributes a freshness and energy to each succeeding plot.  

A Sharp Solitude features FBI investigator Ali Paige and Reeve Landon.  Landon is Ali's former boyfriend and the father of her daughter.  When Anne Marie Johnson (a journalist who was last seen accompanying Reeve Landon  and his service dog for an article she was writing) is murdered, Landon becomes the chief suspect.  Intensely private and with a secret past he is desperate to keep hidden,  Landon is arrested after not admitting that Anne Marie visited his cabin.

Ali Paige refuses to believe Landon is guilty and gets involved in the investigation using her FBI position to get information.  But Ali is not authorized to do so and is jeopardizing her own career.  She is also afraid she may discover something she doesn't want to know.

I thought I knew where the novel was going because issues concerning gun control appear early, but while that is an interesting aspect, the truth is something different.

Shifting between Reeve Landon and Ali's perspectives, the reader learns of the events in their pasts that contribute to the situation in which they find themselves.

Monte Harris and Gretchen Larsen have only cameo appearances.  

A fine addition to this series, but I wonder who will take the lead in the next installment.

Read in March; blog review scheduled for May 17.

NetGalley/Attria Books

Suspense.  May 29, 2018.  Print length:  368 pages

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Winter Song by Susan C. Muller and Some Mail Art

Winter Song introduces Houston Detective Noah Daughtery and his partner Connor Crawford.  Noah is still grieving over the loss of his wife and trying his best to get along with Sweet Pea, the dog who loved and misses her.  Sweet Pea's grief targets Noah, and Sweet Pea punishes him in the way only dogs can.

When a woman is killed on the way home from a yoga class, the wealthy husband is a suspect, but since he didn't commit the crime himself, Noah and Connor look for a third party.

When they get too close, the killer targets Noah.  And Sweet Pea.  

I enjoyed this first book in a new-to-me series and look forward to more.

Kindle Unlimited/Stanford Publishing

Detective Fiction/Crime.  2016.  Print length:  332 pages.  

 I had fun with National Letter Writing Month and National Poetry Month in April.

Friday, May 04, 2018

Why Kill the Innocent: A Sebastian St. Cyr Mystery by C.S. Harris

I've long enjoyed this historical Regency mystery series, but I have to admit this one is not as engaging as previous books.  What is interesting is the emphasis on the situation in which women found themselves during this period.  We tend to forget how circumscribed the lives of women have traditionally been.

Jane Ambrose, a talented musician, is murdered, and the plot revolves around the surprisingly numerous suspects for such a kind and talented woman.  As a music tutor to Princess Charlotte, her connections to the royal family have placed her in a precarious situation. Her husband may also have had a reason to kill her.  Her brother and a dear friend have been imprisoned for their writings against not only the Prince Regent, but against much of the Tory ideology, but even the Whigs may have been willing to sacrifice lives at the political alter.    Jane may have overheard something at the homes of one of her pupils that has to do with smuggling and the French.  On and on, there are suspects and possible motives.  

Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount of Devlin, becomes involved in Jane's death because his wife Hero discovered the body.  So...there is the basic plot.  Sebastien and Hero visit suspect after suspect, all of whom deny murdering Jane.

It is interesting to see, in the context of fiction, the way Jane's life has been restricted and hemmed in by the strictures of society.  A brilliant musician, Jane is reduced to becoming a tutor for children because women were not allowed to perform.  Her art has been censored by social norms, not by law. Her husband can beat her, and she has little recourse.  Divorce was legally possible, but not an option for most women because husbands would take their children.  

I was reminded of the book Censored:  A Literary History of Subversion and Control which I read in January and in which there is a section on Frances Burney, whose writings were stifled and controlled by her father and her mentor because writing for the stage was considered inappropriate for women.  

Interesting aspects of this historical mystery include the corruption of the court and politics, the common people and the poor who were neglected or used as cannon fodder, and the fact that no mattered how intelligent or how talented, women were confined by the dictates of a male dominated society.  As a Sebastian St. Cyr mystery, however, I found it much slower than previous novels.  

Read in April; blog review scheduled for May 4

NetGalley/Berkely Publ.

Historical Fiction.   April 3, 2018.  Print length:  368 pages.

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Head On by John Scalzi and Odysseus Ascending by Evan Currie

I liked John Scalzi's Head On, a standalone follow-up to Lock In, which I have not read, but definitely need to read.

A mystery/FBI procedural set in the near future, Head On has agents Chris Shane and Leslie Vann investigating an incident in which a Hilketa player dies on the field.  Talk about a violent sport!  But the thing is...the players are actually robotic bodies called threeps controlled by people with Haden's Syndrome, a disease that paralyzes the body, but leaves the mind functional.  So no one is really supposed to be physically injured.

Because I had not read Lock In, I had a little trouble initially understanding certain elements, but I caught up on the idea pretty quickly.  I recommend reading Lock In first, but even without the previous book, Head On was an intriguing read-- sometimes amusing, sometimes feeling a bit too much like a conceivable future which added to the tension.

 Read in April.  Blog review scheduled for May 1.


Science Fiction.  April 17, 2018.  Print length:  336 pages.

Set in the far future of space travel, Odysseus Ascendant (#7 in the Odyssey One series) continues the battles of survival against The Empire.  I've read all of these and enjoy each new installment.

This science fiction is known as Space Opera (Space opera is a subgenre of science fiction that emphasizes space warfare, melodramatic adventure, interplanetary battles, chivalric romance, and risk-taking.)  Source 

Think Star Wars, which is probably the best known space opera of all.  The only thing missing is romance.  Canadian author Evan Currie's characters are more concerned with friendship, duty, and allegiance.  

The novels are full of adventure, suspenseful, and strangely believable.  I look forward to each new offering!

Read in March; Blog review scheduled for May 1.

NetGalley/47 North

Science Fiction.  May 8, 2018.  Print length:  304 pages.