Some Mystery Reads…

These are my latest mystery reads.  One of my favorites was  A Place of Safety by Caroline Graham, book 6 in the series that became Midsomer Murders on TV.  I love the characters, Barnaby, Joyce, Sgt. Troy and others, and the sense of place in the small villages.  In this outing, the feelings of menace and tension were particularly well done, as well as the closed in, claustrophobic effect of Mrs. Lawrence’s life in the vicarage.  The mystery was interesting with lots of clues to sift through, I guessed what was going on, however I may have already seen an episode based on this book, so that does not mean much and it did not hinder my enjoyment at all.

The Remorseful Day is a book I have been putting off reading because it is the final book in the Inspector Morse series and I am sad to see the series done.  There was definitely a sense of an ending throughout the book and it was a well done send off to a beloved character.  I would definitely say that you need to be a reader of the series  and invested in the characters before reading this one, as everyone comes full circle here with Strange, Lewis and Morse having their arcs.  Great mystery in a great series, I’m sorry that it has ended.

Outrage by Arnauldur Indridason is book 6 in the Erlendur series.  There has always been a team effort effect rather than an individual sleuth in these books, Erlendur, Sigurdur Oli, and Elinborg and in this particular book, Erlendur is on a leave of absence and Elinborg takes the lead to solve a particularly brutal murder of a perhaps not so nice young man.  Amidst chasing down details of the man’s involvement with date rape drugs and looking into an older closed case, Elinborg is also dealing with personal issues with her children.  The resolution takes the reader right up to the end of the book and is very well done.  There is a little bit of a cliff hanger regarding the whereabouts of Erlendur and whether he will be back for the next book or not.  Very well done Nordic mystery.

Ritual by Mo Hayder is bit more on the brutal side than I usually like to read.  The book is very well written and plotted, so intriguing, and definitely very contemporary with issues of cultural integration and policing.  I liked the character of Flea Marley a great deal, I don’t think I’ve read a police procedural with an emphasis on the police/forensic divers.  Flea’s thoughts in the water as she searched, and the sense, at times, of claustrophobia, that I would feel, yet Flea remained calm was really well done.  Good thriller.

Cleaver Square by Daniel and Sean Campbell has been on my Kindle for a little while, so I decided to pick it up.   Loved the story and the idea behind the crime.  Very modern feel dealing with trafficking and the care system; children being lost within the system is all very current news.   I think that it needed a little fleshing out.  It just felt a little thin to me in character development and details.  It was a quick read and fast paced.  I would read another in the series.

Advertisements

Spring Break Reads…

 

I’ve been off on spring break and read quite a few books, cleaning up my kindle for the most part, although a few are library books.

Broken Silence is this month’s bargain read at the Kindle English Mystery Club on Goodreads.  Jack Brady is the typical train wreck of detective, marinated in drink, recovering from a shooting caused by recklessness, mourning the loss of his marriage due to his own infidelity.  He is dragged into a particularly brutal case that will test his loyalties and drag up connections from his past.  Themes of child abuse, secrecy, loyalty and lies are explored here as Brady, clearly a black sheep, investigates a cast of dark characters.  Although the pacing seemed a little rushed,  I did enjoy this one.  It struck me as similar in some ways to a French mystery show I just watched The Disappeared.

The Man Who Smiled is another Kurt Wallander mystery.  A death meant to look like an accident, some shady international business affairs, a mysterious multi-millionaire, and Wallander freshly back from leave after a shooting come together to make for an intriguing mystery.  Plenty to think about here, with twists and turns, even though some things stretch my belief a little (a landmine in a residential neighborhood?? really?) .  I really like this series and find it very well written.  The character of Wallander is a well drawn and complex character.   I really enjoy this series and plan to continue reading it.

Dark Lies is a serial killer book, with a serial killer who has a particularly gruesome sense of humor.  I found the mystery here intriguing, however the writing was choppy and somewhat disjointed, making it hard to follow in places.  There were some good ideas as far as plot, but I think the characters were a little over the top as far as going for “quirky”.   Explores ideas of having evil genes and the theme of “good twin vs. evil twin”, people who are interested  in those ideas might like to read this.

The Murder List is the first in a series with Detective Zac Boateng.  Zac has had his own personal brush with tragedy, which has left his family still reeling five years on.  His new case is intertwined with old ones and leads him down the path to the one case he can’t let go of, his daughter’s murder.  A thriller with good character development, showing the detective as a family man.  A slow starter, but I really enjoyed this one.

Dead to Me was almost a “did not finish” for me.  I like my damaged protagonists, indeed Jack Taylor is one of my favorites, but they have to be intelligent, use common sense, have some part of their personality that makes you want to root for them.  Detective Kate Matthews really has nothing that makes me want to keep reading, she is just a stereotypical “cowboy, disgraced cop” and the story doesn’t make up for any of the character’s shortcomings.

My Soul to Keep has a really good character, Detective Alex Brady and some interesting supporting characters as well, including a sweet, old lady “pretend” clairvoyant.   The story or mystery is intriguing and kept me reading.  There were some issues with editing and writing, this could have used a firm hand with an editor in places.  Still overall, I enjoyed it and would give this series another try.

 

The Blind, The Silence and The Misfortune of Marion Palm

I received The Blind and The Misfortune of Marion Palm as ARCs from the publishers in return for a fair review.

The Blind is a psychological character study.  Sam is a psychologist with years of experience and an enviable professional reputation.  Her personal life, on the other hand, is a train wreck of drink and abusive relationships with men.  A new mysterious patient enters her rotation at the institution at the same time that her own psychiatric staff review is performed and this collision of events has results that will change Sam’s life…except…really?!?

First,  how does Sam not understand legal committal procedures?  How is she able to show up at work as a psychologist in an institution drunk, hungover, with blood in her hair from fights and you know, not even get a letter in her file?  Is no one concerned about their insurance premiums, because she sounded like a lawsuit waiting to happen to me.  How has her one co-worker “known” her DSM diagnosis all along and no one else has noticed?  And why has he compromised  patient safety and the facility by not reporting her behaviors?  He should lose his license and so should she.  Finally,  who is paying for all these people to stay in this lovely mental health facility?  Particularly the mystery patient, who just left prison after a twenty year stint and has no family money behind him?  These places do not come cheap.  I can suspend disbelief for fiction to a certain extent, but this expected too much.  Add to that the fact that the great reveal was pretty obvious early on and the main character (and many others) were thoroughly unlikable, I would not recommend it.  Themes of alcoholism, mental illness, redemption and forgiveness.

The Misfortune of Marion Palm is another book with thoroughly unlikable characters, Marion, her husband, and even the  kids.  This was supposed to be humorous or at least, it was marketed as a “funny”, “darkly comedic” read.  I just didn’t see it.  A story about people who don’t love or care about anyone centered around the embezzlement of what is really a rather small amount of money.   Not recommended.

The Silence by Alison Bruce is the 4th in the DC Gary Goodhew series.  I have only read the first one and this one so far.  The novel begins with the stabbing of Joey in a pub parking lot.  Joey had been a local lad who had perhaps made a bit more of himself than most but still visited his local.  It soon becomes clear that this was not a simple robbery or a case of jealously.  More deaths occur and DC Goodhew has to reach back into the past to find a connection between them all.  A well done police procedural, nicely developed plot with ample characters and victims to keep the reader guessing!

The Chalk Man and The Silkworm

I have had The Chalk Man on my list for a while and it is next month’s read for The Kindle English Mystery Club so I picked it up from the library to be sure I read it.    It had a lovely nostalgic feel for those of us who grew up in the 80s – very Stand By Me-esque, except in a small English village.    A horrible murder is committed and a group of children are involved via chalk symbols, years later the symbols make a reappearance and cause a revisiting/investigating of the original events.  The crime is interesting and there is a great amount of suspense and twists and surprises.   The time does shift back and forth between 2016 and 1986 and there are several characters whose lives intersect at various times and events to keep track of.  There is also an element of “lucid dreaming”, which gave points of the book a fantastical feel to me.  The book also tackles themes of dementia, guilt or the appearance of it, and repentance.  Good read.

The Silkworm is the second in the Robert Galbraith series featuring Cormoran Strike, an ex-army, amputee private investigator, who finds his business quite a bit healthier after the events in the first book through business his way.  Robin is his secretary/assistance and the newest big case involves a missing temperamental writer,Owen, who unfortunately has a history of wandering off so no one is really thinking much of his latest disappearance.  Strike deals with the wife, who hires him to find the wayward writer, the agents, the publishers, and the scores of people who Owen has managed to piss off with his latest tome.  Strike has to deal with his own personal issues as his ex-girlfriend of many years is finally marrying the competition and Robin is marrying as well.    Amidst all this, other small cases of infidelity and industrial espionage wind their way across Strike’s desk.  Great read in a great series.  I am loving the development of the characters in this series!  I think fans of Kate Atkinson’s Case Histories would really like this series as well.  It has a similar feel to me.

The One & Murder She Wrote: Manhattans & Murder

 

The One is a very timely novel considering the popularity of dating apps, online dating and online gene mapping companies.  The premise is that a tech company has found the gene that matches you with your “one”, your “soul mate”.  Along with the positives – allowing millions who choose to make use of the service to find and meet their perfect match, there are of course negatives, broken marriages, engagements, people matched to criminals or other undesirable.  The novel follows the stories of several couples who receive their notifications about their matches, including one who is a serial killer and others who may not be what they seem.  The book alternates along their journeys to discover what is really happening, how the matches are occurring and who people really are.  Fun read and I liked the fact that although it has a techie premise it does not really spend any time on the technical aspects, it is focused on the human interactions and reactions.

Murder She Wrote:  Manhattans & Murder is a book based on the popular TV series Murder She Wrote.  I only occasionally watched the show and had never really read the books, however a few years ago I had the good fortune to meet Donald Bain and his wife Renee Paley-Bain at a conference.  I found that both to be fantastic speakers and just lovely people and have made an effort to pick up books in this series and others by them since that time.

In this book, Jessica is in New York for Christmas promoting her new book, when she runs across a former Cabot Cove resident, who is supposed to be under witness protection.  She then witnesses a murder and Jessica being Jessica is not going to just let that go.  She follows the clues around the city,  to musician’s studios, jazz clubs and the famous Dakota and  then back to Cabot Cove, uncovering corruption and cover ups in her wake.   Delightful cozy mystery.

 

 

The Rottweiler and The Daughters of Cain

The Rottweiler of the title refers not to a dog, but rather a mis-named serial killer.  There is a wealth of characters here to wonder about, many of them with their own complex (even sad) storylines.   The serial killer is garrotting pretty young women with alarming frequency.  Inez owns an antique store and the flats above it and the reader becomes enmeshed in the lives of Inez, her tenants and her consistently late employee.   Ruth Rendell’s storylines and characters are always complex and this is no exception.  This was an intriguing mystery, however I was more interested in a couple of the character’s lives, mainly Will and Becky and their tragic storyline.  A good mystery read!

The Daughters of Cain is a Detective Morse mystery from Colin Dexter.  We are getting close to the end of the series and there is a lot of foreshadowing of that here.  Morse himself talks of his retirement and his health issues are definitely featured here.  There are two murders here and Morse, with the help of Lewis, seeks to find the connection.  Along the course of the investigation, Morse meets with three women, the titular Daughters of Cain.

In this outing, I found myself rooting for the killer(s), at least when it came to the second victim, by all accounts a reprehensible human being.  Morse seems to have regrets himself at the resolution, yet another missed opportunity in a lifetime of romantic disappointment.  Superbly written and executed mystery!

 

Snow Day Reading and More…

 

I’ve been reading a lot in various online publications about Nordic lifestyles.  Articles that throw around terms like Hygge, Lagom and Fika.  I also enjoy Nordic Noir so I thought it would be good to read something Nordic in which no one dies.  My library had  Lagom by Linnea Dunne and How to Hygge by Signe Johansen.  How to Hygge had quite a big recipe section, so it might be more of a book to buy if you’d like to try the recipes.  Both of these were interesting, quick reads, with nods towards finding balance, minimalism, a sense of community and connection, and outdoor living.  They certainly make the lifestyle and more importantly  the priorities of Nordic countries sound idyllic, how accurate they are I can’t really say.  I found the interesting conversation to be less about why Hygge is so desirable/beneficial and more about why American lifestyle is so determinedly headed in the opposite direction, more stress, more working hours, less time off, less socialization.   Two interesting reads for anyone interested in lifestyle trends or who reads all these Nordic murder mysteries and want to see something less grim about Nordic life.

Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty is a closed room mystery set in space.  I am not a big Science Fiction reader but the idea that it was a mystery just with a science fiction setting appealed to me so I picked this one up from the library.  The crew of ship headed to a new world with a cargo of humans to populate it as Earth is in its death throes awaken in their cloning pods amidst a grisly scene of death.  Instead of the pristine cloning lab there is blood and bodies everywhere.  The lynch pin of this story is cloning.  The conflicts on earth are between clones and humans and the crew are all clones.  They have to be to survive the long journey.  The idea being as one ages and dies the next clone awakes complete with the memories of each of its predecessors.  This was OK, but it was much more to the science fiction side than the mystery side and that is not really my thing.  Lots of discussion of cloning, cloning politics, mind maps and the computer programming that goes into them.  Science Fiction fans will probably like it as it does have strong characters and an interesting plot.

Dead Silent by Helen Durrant is this month’s read over at the Kindle English Mystery Club on Goodreads.  This is book 2 in the Calladine and Bayliss series.  I have not read Book 1 so this is my introduction to the characters.  The main protagonist of Calladine is a good character with conflicts occurring in his love life, in his relationship with his adult daughter, in the impact having a criminal relative is having on his career and in dealing with the death of his mother and her deathbed revelations.  All this and a missing child and mysterious, horribly tortured body found at the scene of an auto accident.

I found the torture over the top, way over the top and not really realistic.  Dehydration would have killed the victims before anything else.  I thought the pacing seemed rushed somehow and it didn’t really feel like the story flowed naturally.  Thrillers are usually fast paced but this just seemed to race towards the end at the expense of the story.  The storyline of the missing child felt incomplete, although perhaps it will be explored in the next book?   An ok read.