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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.  

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Interesting Article

What Does Immersing Yourself in a Book Do to Your Brain?
an excerpt from the article:
The unsettling reality, however, is that unbeknownst to many of us, including until recently myself, there has begun an unanticipated decline of empathy among our young people. The MIT scholar Sherry Turkle described a study by Sara Konrath and her research group at Stanford University that showed a 40 percent decline in empathy in our young people over the last two decades, with the most precipitous decline in the last ten years. Turkle attributes the loss of empathy largely to their inability to navigate the online world without losing track of their real-time, face-to-face relationships. In her view our technologies place us at a remove, which changes not only who we are as individuals but also who we are with one another.
and another excerpt:
These studies are the beginning of increasing work on the place of empathy and perspective taking in the neuroscience of literature. The cognitive scientist Keith Oatley, who studies the psychology of fiction, has demonstrated a strong relationship between reading fiction and the involvement of the cognitive processes known to underlie both empathy and theory of mind. Oatley and his York University colleague Raymond Mar suggest that the process of taking on another’s consciousness in reading fiction and the nature of fiction’s content—where the great emotions and conflicts of life are regularly played out—not only contribute to our empathy, but represent what the social scientist Frank Hakemulder called our “moral laboratory.” 

I don't think it comes as a surprise to most readers that reading and placing oneself in the role of another person, with all that entails, creates understanding from a perspective different from our own.  That it works on the brain, creating new networks shouldn't be a surprise, after all, athletes know that "imagining" their performances is as important as practice in producing a result.

I don't think that this decline is limited to young people, however.  Fear of  "the other" has risen in the last couple of years and fear often results in a lack of willingness to put ourselves in another's situation.  

However, it perhaps more incumbent than ever to choose books that are both interesting and thoughtful for our children and to encourage them as they grow to read books that will give them insight into lives that are quite different from their own.

Thursday, November 01, 2018

Debris Line and The Moscow Sleepers

Debris Line is the latest in Matthew Fitzsimmons'  adventures of Gibson Vaughn.  I loved The Short Drop and was entertained by Poison Feather, Cold Harbor, and Debris Line, but the first book was definitely the best in this thriller series.  

Debris Line finds Gibson Vaughn, Jenn, Hendricks, and George  in a small coastal village in Portugal.  Their host?  A drug smuggler who owes George a favor and is willing to harbor the fugitives for a time.

Then a drug shipment is hijacked.  Not taken, but threatened with destruction, and Vaughn and his team must repay the privilege of having enjoyed the kingpin's sanctuary.  Or else.

Fast-paced with twists and betrayals and a new protagonist/antagonist? hacker group responsible for the heist.   The spokesperson has a great deal of knowledge about Vaughn.  Whoever these people are, we can expect to hear more about them in the next book.

Read in July.  Blog review scheduled for Nov. 1.

NetGalley/Thomas & Mercer

Thriller/Suspense.  Nov. 13, 2018.  

Stella Rimington's latest espionage thriller Moscow Sleepers kept me engaged throughout.
 Dame Stella Rimington, DCB is a British author and former Director General of MI5, a position she held from 1992 to 1996. She was the first female DG of MI5, and the first DG whose name was publicised on appointment. Wikipedia

I've read one other book by Rimington and was pleased that I enjoyed this one as well.  The story begins in Vermont with a dying university professor in a hospice.  When a visitor finally arrives, the nurse notifies the FBI, as she has been instructed to do.

From Vermont, to London, to Brussels and Berlin, to a school in rural England--the plot involves the unraveling of the importance of the dying Vermont academic to a conspiracy involving immigrant children and computer hacking.  Liz Carlyle is back on the job with MI5.  

As a result of Stella Rimington's nearly 30 years of experience with MI5, her plots have a realistic feel.  Rimington's work is more concerned with putting together puzzle pieces than the more violent works of other espionage writers.   I enjoyed the puzzle and the characters.

Read in August.  Blog review scheduled for Nov. 1.

NetGalley/Bloomsbury USA

Espionage/Mystery.  Nov. 13, 2018.