Here are my four latest crime reads. Snow White Must Die is book 4 in a series in which I have not read the others. I will probably go back and read them because this was an excellent read. A man is released from prison and returns home after serving time for the murder of two female classmates. He was convicted with no bodies ever being located. Now one of the bodies has been found and the investigation that is kicked off threatens to uncover secrets that an entire town has hidden away. The story builds and reveals how one lie leads to another until it seems to take on a life of its own and become unwieldy and unsustainable. Great crime read.

The Chestnut Man is an excellent crime read. Bodies are found with little chestnut men at the scene. The chestnut men have a finger print on them which seems to be impossible as the person is a missing child presumed dead. After believing her dead her parents, one of them a high ranking politician, are forced to reexamine their daughter’s fate. Lots of twists and turns and at points a back and forth time line as the past reveals clues into the current case. Highly recommended read.

Cruel Mercy is book 6 in the Aector McAvoy series. In this installment of the series, Aector is pushed far from his family and his comfort zone, all the way to New York City. His wife’s Traveler background has pulled Aector into a crime in New York in which one man is dead, another near death, and Aector’s brother-in-law is missing. This is a series that I really enjoy and even though I am not a big fan of the New York setting this was still an excellent read in the series. Glimpses into the worlds of Boxing, Russian organized crime and the Mafia. All three form a bloody intersection and Aector just wants to find his brother-in-law and return home before the trouble in New York spreads to the families at home.

The Inspector and Silence is book 5 in the Inspector van Veeteren series. Here are protagonist is getting older and tired. He dreams of a little job in a bookshop, a respite from the blood and tragedies of police work. Before he can move any further towards retirement, he becomes involved in a case concerning the disappearance of a young girl and a religious cult. The depiction of the cult life with its austerity and beaten down women and girls was well done. There are many red herrings as two more bodies through fuel on the flames. A good wrap up ending solving the case. This was fast paced with some dark humor shown through Van Veeteren’s thoughts and interviews.

Pre-Thanksgiving Reads

Out of all these Black Run is the only new series for me, although I have watched the TV series. I really love the show and the picked up the book based on that. The book did not disappoint. Very similar feel to the show. In Black Run, we meet Rocco, who has been banished from his beloved Rome to the north of Italy. He is called to the scene of a gruesome “body squashed by snowplow” scene. Rocco is not exactly a straight and narrow kind of policeman, however he is very good at what he does. He has many suspects and clues pointing this way and that. Well paced, immersive, police procedural. I will definitely be reading more in this series.

Victim 2117 is book 8 in the Department Q series. This installment had a different feel as the focus is on Assad and his family. This is a much darker outing in the series as the reader learns of the tragedies in Assad’s past. Along with Assad’s story line there is a connected subplot of a young deranged man, Alexander, who intends to wreak havoc on the real world just as he does in his computer games. Excellent book in a great series. Very dark themes of child sexual abuse.

Winterkill is book 6 in the Dark Iceland series. Ari Thor is looking forward to seeing his ex and child again as they are coming to visit for the holiday. In the midst of all this though a new investigation begins as a young girl seems to commit suicide in the middle of town. Ari finds himself torn between the investigation, dealing with his less than respectful protege, his ex and child, and a possible new romance. Interwoven storylines come together to make an engaging read. Highly recommend.

Deception on His Mind is book 9 in the Inspector Lynley series. Although the series is Inspector Lynley, he does not figure in this installment of the series. This is entirely about DI Barbara Havers, his partner. Barbara is on leave to recover from injuries but decides to follow her neighbor to Balford-el-Nez rather than rest and relax. She gets involved in a case that has all the hallmarks of a hate crime and tensions are running high in the local community. The case has a well written cast of characters with red herrings and clues to follow. A very good installment that allows Havers to carry the book on her own.

The Heron’s Cry & Blood at the Root

Sitting home recovering from my booster shot of Moderna, I finished The Heron’s Cry by Ann Cleeves. I am really liking this new series of hers almost as much as her Vera Stanhope series. Matthew Venn is obviously a very different protagonist, from Vera. A man who grew up in a rigid sect, The Bretheren, broke away from them and joined the police force.

Matthew is called to a bloody scene of the murder of a seemingly well liked doctor. As he and his team investigate, tenuous connections seem to exist between the current murder and some older suicides. The victim’s daughter, Eve, is dragged into the investigation as she found her father’s body. Eve’s relationship with Matthew’s husband, Jonathon adds some tension as Matthew is someone who values the rules and order and compartmentalizing. There is a significant subplot about Matthew’s relationship woven into the story. There is also a glimpse into the minds and lives of the other team members, particularly Ross.

The clues continue to point off in various directions and it seems like everyone has secrets to hide. Some really great twists and turns towards the end here. Strong themes of suicide and suicidal ideation. Highly recommended

Blood at the Root is book 9 in the Inspector Banks series. This outing in the series definitely poses the question, what happens when the victim is someone who would be difficult to feel sorry for under any circumstances? A young man is found stomped to death and Banks begins his investigation. Upon finding his identity, they uncover a rather sordid association with Neo Nazis. The further the investigation drags on the more of a political minefield it becomes, with Neo Nazis on one side and members of the local community on the other. Great read in an excellent series.

The Clutter Corpse is the first in a series by Simon Brett. I have read other series by him and enjoyed them, such as The Fethering and Mrs. Partgeter series. Although this may seem like a cozy mystery as many of his mystery books do, they really are commentary on social class and topical issues, so more of social satires that have mysteries for plots. In this series, the protagonist/sleuth is a widow who has a decluttering business that is one part doing the organizational labor and one part therapist as she works with a lot of hoarders and people suffering from other traumas. In the course of her business, Ellen comes across a body in a hoarders home and this sets off the case. Along with the murder investigation topics such as suicide, suicidal ideation, drug addiction, mental illness, and child neglect are raised, through the clients Ellen has and people in her personal life. There are some excellent twists and great writing to keep you reading a good pace through this short (under 200 pages) novel.

My Sister’s Grave is the first in a series by Robert Dugoni, a new-to-me author. Tracy’s sister disappeared some twenty five years ago, presumed murdered by Edmund House. He was out of prison where he served time for a brutal crime against another young woman. In the present day, Tracy is a homicide detective, who has never let go of her sister’s case. She gets a call that Sarah’s body was discovered and returns home. The discovery of the body is the impetus for Tracy to push even harder to reopen the case as she felt that the original investigation was flawed or even corrupt and that Sarah’s killer has never been caught. Tracy is a well drawn flawed lead character here. The reader is pulled into the story and roots for Tracy to get the resolution she needs. Well plotted and paced this was a good start to a new series.

Unto Us a Son is Given is actually book 28 in a series. I haven’t read any of the others, I have often seen Donna Leon books at my library but had no idea the series was this long running. Definitely a slow burner here, the murder doesn’t even occur until you are more than half way through the book. I enjoyed this but hesitate to comment because I really think that I didn’t appreciate it fully as I have missed out on so much of the character development over the course of the series. Commissario Brunetti has many connections and relationships throughout Venice and I think a new reader to the series at this juncture misses out on much of the subtext here. I would like to pick up the first couple in this series and see how Brunetti begins his journey.

Two More Mystery Books

The Darkest Evening by Ann Cleeves is book 9 in the Vera Stanhope series. This is a series that I love to read. I also enjoy the TV show and Brenda Blethyn’s portrayal of Vera. In The Darkest Evening, Vera finds a child abandoned in a car stuck in a snowdrift. The mother is eventually discovered to have been murdered. Vera and her team work to uncover the murderer, even though there could be a perceived conflict of interest as the murder occurred on the grounds of the Stanhope ancestral home. The murder plot clips along at a good pace with while the novel also gives us more insight into Holly’s life and Vera’s somewhat isolated childhood. The ending had a good twist to it and the case really came together in a believable way. Excellent police procedural mystery read in a great series.

Ruth Rendell’s The Water’s Lovely is more of a psychological study than a mystery read. The primary focus is on two sisters and the long term ramifications of the death of their stepfather. One sister, Ismay, has delusions of herself as “the watchful guardian” of her sister. The other sister, Heather, is infinitely more practical and faces the world head on. Their relationships cracks as each sister begins her own serious relationship. Ismay’s fantastical self absorption, that she reframes as concern for Hannah’s boyfriend, Edmund, becomes a focus. The plot interweaves storylines about both the men in their lives, the actions and death of the stepfather, and a grifter who targets the elderly. I do like Ruth Rendell’s writing. There is a developed sense of menace and you can sense from reading the first few pages that tings will not end well. However, this just seemed too long, too drawn out and just being too convoluted. I would still give this three starts because the actual character developments, the tension building at places, and individual scenes are so well done.

Halloween Weekend Books

These are both books from authors that I have read before. The End of Wasp Season is book 2 in the Alex Morrow series. I did read book 1 and I liked this one actually more than the first. From the start we see the murder of a young woman whose mother has just died and seems to have been killed in error, a case of mistaken identity perhaps or is it? The story vacillates back and forth. The story winds its way through the mind of the teenage perpetrator, whose world of wealth and privilege was ripped apart by the actions of his selfish father and less so his self absorbed mother. This turns into a study of the psychology of a family and in the end you don’t know who to feel more sympathy for, Sarah, or Thomas, with his dead father, neglectful mother and suicidal sister. The story of Thomas, his dead father and dysfunctional family is set alongside a subplot about Alex Morrow and her father’s death and her dysfunctional family and the young teen relative also in trouble for a violent crime. A great police procedural read.

The Other Woman’s House is about my third try at Sophie Hannah. These books keep getting recommended to me. This one is technically a Do Not Finish. I gave up on it and just skipped to the end and made sure that the ending was what I thought it was. The story is just so unnecessarily convoluted. The .police officer characters on their honeymoon, why did they get married? Their behavior was ridiculous. It is just not for me.

Two More Library Reads

The Girl in the Woods by Patricia MacDonald was a thriller through and through. The story takes off with Blair Butler returning home to the claustrophobic small town of her childhood in time to hear her older sister’s dying declaration. She makes a promise to her sister to act on what she now knows was a miscarriage of justice but soon finds out that it will be an uphill battle. No one wants to reopen the closed case of a child murder. The sense of place is very well developed here, although it is an entire community, the reader gets the feel of the walls closing in on Blair as she pursues justice for the wrongfully convicted man and seeks to find the real killer of her childhood friend, Molly. Really enjoyed this one and would recommend it.

In the Moors by Nina Milton is not my usual type of fare. It involves a modern day Shaman who gets wrapped up in a mystery as one of her clients/patients is accused of murder. The supernatural element here was really well done. There is a great sense of menace throughout. It is balanced between threats in the “real world” and horrors in her visions. Elements of the real life Moors Murders case here of Ian Brady and Myra Hindley definitely seem to be an inspiration for this story. This was a very good read, especially coming up on Halloween.

Storygraph and Readathon Books

I participated for a while in the Dewey’s 24 hour readathon this weekend. I haven’t done that in quite a while and it was nice to have such a break from everything to just read. From these, three of them are actually new to me authors, so I was happy that it worked out that I enjoyed them. I discovered them on the site . I recently joined over there to check it out as a supplement to Goodreads. I’ve been on Goodreads for a long time, but I think this serves a different niche. It is definitely not as social or event focused as Goodreads, but the recommendations based on your already read (which you can import from Goodreads) are far superior. AND….it allows you to permanently remove books from your recommendations. Hallelujah!

I just found Goodreads recommended the same books over and over again. And it kept recommending me some that I would never read in a million years and there was no way of saying “don’t ever recommend this to me again”. Anyway if you are interested, it is definitely work checking out.

Hanging Hill was like all of Mo Hayder’s books a great read. The troubled protagonists, a pair of sisters each troubled in their own unique way, reunite in this fast paced crime book. The novel starts with the horrible murder of a teenager and doesn’t really let up all the way through. The last ten pages or so are fantastic.

The 7th Woman is a very dark French police procedural. The crimes against a series of women being carried out by a serial killer are brutal and the reader is not spared the details. The writing is excellent as is the translation. This first in a series focused on the Paris Homicide squad and Nico Sirsky is in turns suspenseful and horrifying. I did suspect the killer a bit before the reveal but not because I had figured out any clues really, it was just a feeling on my part. Nico is engaging protagonist and pulls the reader into rooting for him throughout the story. The pacing here was spot on, the story moved along at a fast clip pulling you through the pages. Very good read.

The Disappearance of Adele Bedeau is less a mystery and more of a psychological study. The reader here sits back and watches as socially awkward, regimented Manfred, who probably today would have received some kind of diagnosis, ever so slowly begins to fall apart. The event that triggers Manfred’s downward spiral is the titular “disappearance”. As luck would have it, this causes Manfred to cross paths with a figure from his past. As much as this is a character study of Manfred, the reader also delves into the detective, Georges Gorski’s, psyche. Manfred and Georges are both men who have events in their past that have impacted them greatly and that will become important throughout the course of the book. This is a dark and twisted read, but be prepared for a slow moving story. This is not a thriller read.

Welcome to Spicetown is a cozy mystery that starts off with the theft of a bunch of fireworks intended for a county New Year’s Eve display. This is the first in a new series and as such it spends time setting the scene and introducing many of the town characters. There is a romantic subplot, some fledgling businesses, and the stable, reliable Mayor and Police Chief. This was an okay cozy mystery.

Sun on Fire was a good Police Procedural read. It crossed into Germany and back to Iceland again. The Police characters were fantastic and I would love to read more of them. The character writing and dialog was really what drew me in to this story along with the well developed sense of place. The story starts with an Icelandic citizen being murdered in the Icelandic Embassy in Germany. The investigation leads the murder squad on a merry chase and uncovers secrets and lies and hidden connections from years past. Discussion of past severe child sexual abuse. Fans of the Department Q series would probably enjoy this.

Some Brief Notes on a Few Reads…

The Little Shop of Found Things is a relatively quick read with a blend of magic and romance. I have to admit I am not a fan of time travel in general, but this was fine for me. I liked the character of Xanthe and the idea of her “power”. Xanthe can get a read on certain objects, the emotions and history that leaves an imprint within them. She then is roped into helping a rather demanding ghost in the new shop that she is opening with her mother. Things do tie together rather nicely and there are some threads that I am sure will be picked up in future books in the series. I just never felt that this book hit its full potential. An okay magical romance read.

Anything is Possible is set in the Olive Kitteridge universe. The strength here is in the writing of the small town voice. The characters read as authentic, as do their emotions. I am not usually a fan of short stories and read very few of them, but I did enjoy this. The visits with Lucy Barton and her family and getting to see how the Barton family was interwoven into the town was an excellent read. This is for fans of excellent slice of life writing.

The Diva Haunts the House and The Diva Cooks a Goose are books four and five in the Domestic Diva Mystery series. Both of theses were good outings in a classic cozy mystery series. The Domestic Diva refers to Sophie Winston. Her extended family make up the colorful cast of characters that reappear in each episode along with recipes and “Dear Abby” letter style chapter headers. Good reads for fans of culinary cozy mysteries.

End of Summer Reads

Summer is winding down and I am preparing to go back to work. Fit in a few more library and Hoopla reads here.

I always enjoy Belinda Bauer books and The Facts of Life and Death is no exception. A small, tragically underserved, almost cut off community is being terrorized by a killer. As police and citizens mobilize to hunt this killer in their midst it is the smallest amongst them who notices things and puts clues together. This was a really good read, very hard to put down from start to finish. The sense of isolation and almost claustrophobia that the community has comes through on the pages. Tension filled writing with excellent pacing that pushes through to the end without any dragging along the way. Highly recommended.

For Whom the Book Tolls is the first in a cozy mystery series. Jenna Quinn is down on her luck and down to her last dime when she is invited by her uncle to stay with him and work in his bookshop until she finds her feet again. The murder of her Uncle has the police naturally looking at her. Nicely drawn characters, an interesting background in the town of Hokes Folly, NC, and a well plotted mystery make this a great opener to a new series. Looking forward to reading another.

Devil’s Food Cake Murder is book 14 in the Hannah Swenson series. Another visit to Lake Eden, this time filled with deception, jewel heists, and murder. As usual we have the local characters and Hannah’s love interests, Mike and Norman. This is a comforting visit with old friends, if your old friends are sleuths that solve murders!. There is a bit of a surprise announcement at the end for long time readers.

Paranoid by Lisa Jackson is a classic case of a crime today being linked to a crime from the past. 20 years ago Rachel’s brother Luke was killed in what seemed like it might have been an accident or not? Now today, people involved are dying and Rachel is getting text messages that seem to be from beyond the grave. Twists and turns and very critical jabs at life in insular small towns, the downside of everyone knowing everyone and know one ever forgetting. Lots of red herrings and distractions from the main plot. I found some of the characters a bit annoying but still a fun domestic thriller read.

Murder at the Lakeside Library is the first in a new series. Rain Wilmont has returned to her family’s summer cabin to spend some time healing from her husband’s death and infidelity. She discovers that during her absence her mother has expanded the cabin’s library and made it a local attraction and everyone is expecting her to open and run it. A murder on the site, her parents troubled marriage, the identity of the victim, and her own family history all complicate what was supposed to be a peaceful retreat for her. She reconnects with an old summer friend and together they investigate uncovering old secrets and new. An okay read.