Ice Lake by John A. Lenahan

35126380  Finished this on my Kindle last night, to be honest I don’t even remember when I bought it or why.  Might have been recommended to me or I may have just read about it on a blog.  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

I liked the detective, Harry Cull, retired from the police force due to a personal tragedy and now working as a freelance investigator mainly in the field of interrogation and lie detection.  Harry gets a call from a state trooper who is investigating a murder in rural Pennsylvania and intrigued, Harry takes the case and we get plunged into life and death in the small town.

The relationship between Harry and his state Trooper friend Cirba is engaging and fun with lots of banter and obvious deep friendship between the two.  I think that the characterization of the victim is actually the strongest point of the book.  We really get to “know” Bill, who he was before he was a body in the woods, what motivated him, who loved him and who he loved.  For a victim who is dead within the first couple pages, he has a strong emotional impact.  I really wanted to see his killer punished.

The book explores fracking and the impact on a community and the environment as a major plot point and I found that interesting and more than a little scary.  A side plot involving a teen environmental warrior added humor and felt very current.

The weakness of the book was in the resolution, I think it was a bit of a stretch.  I will say that it might just be me, I’m not a huge fan of organized crime storylines.  Overall a solid mystery read.

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For the Sake of Elena by Elizabeth George

6446004  This is book 5 in the Inspector Lynley series.  I have watched the entire series on TV and am now working my way through the books.  I love the characters in this series, Lynley and his sidekick Havers, Helen, and St. James and they are all here in For the Sake of Elena.

This outing in the series involves the murder of a university professor’s d(D)eaf daughter, the Elena of the title.  As the case unwinds it involves infidelity, Deaf culture, parental alienation, and the nature of inspiration or creativity.  As the case goes on there are subplots involving Lynley, Helen, and Helen’s sister’s postpartum depression and Haver’s dilemma about her aging mother’s care.  The storylines are written sensitively and add depth as the character’s grapple with these issues.  Another great book, in a series I really enjoy.

A Pretty Place for A Murder & Good Me Bad Me

 

A Pretty Place for A Murder is a book I picked up because my local used book shop was culling mysteries, so I found it in the culled books.  I have never heard of Roy Hart or his sleuth, Superintendent Roper, but I am really impressed.  Set in the “pretty” village of Cort Abbas, which the local heirs to the manse are turning into an attraction for artistic types,  there is a lovely, engrossing sense of place and village life in the late 70s,  This is not a thriller, it is a solid police procedural with attention to the details.  The driving strength is definitely in the characterizations, From Jollyboy, the local copper to Roper the Superintendent brought in on the murder investigation, the main characters are all very well drawn.  These are not cardboard cutout characters, there is depth and interest built into each one.  I’d highly recommend for fans of P.D. James or if you like police procedurals.  I’ve already put the first in this series on hold at my library.

As an aside, I cannot find any information about Roy Hart, mystery author.  There is no biography that I can find online.  I don’t even know if it is a pen name or his actual name.  I’d love to hear more about him, so if you know something let me know in the comments.

Good Me Bad Me by Ali Land is this month’s read at the Kindle English Mystery Book Club on Goodreads.   There is not really a mystery here, it is more of a psychological thriller.  There are some dark themes explored here, child sexual abuse, child abduction, torture and murder, mental illness and the impact of trauma on a child.  The book is told from the point of view of  Milly/Annie, the child of a serial child killer.  I can’t really talk much about the plot without giving things away, so I’d just say that I pretty much saw where the book was heading early on.

I did find the themes interesting and the portrayal of a victim of childhood trauma was well done.  As was the psychologist character, Mike, who couldn’t deal with the dysfunction in his own family.  Classic, the shoemaker’s children have no shoes…  All said it dragged a little while I was waiting for something to happen in the beginning, but once events were set in motion in ended nicely tied up.

By the way, The Kindle English Mystery Club is available here on WordPress, https://kindlebritishmysterybookclub.wordpress.com/  as well as on twitter as @KindleCrimeClub, and Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/48703-kindle-english-mystery-book-club

 

 

 

Latest Reads…

Work has been insanely busy but I have managed to get in some reading.

I am working my way through the Morse books by Colin Dexter and this, The Wench is Dead, is number 8 in the series.  This was an excellent Morse book, focused on Morse’s declining health, due to his rampant abuses of his body.   Morse is hospitalized and becomes fascinated with a 100 year old murder case and investigates from his hospital bed.  Very much an homage to Josephine Tey’s The Daughter of Time in which her Inspector Grant is laid up in hospital and investigates Richard the III.

Morse is as always an unapologetic character with a keen mind and a talent for investigation.  He would have been a gentleman detective type from an earlier age with his snobbery, penchant for opera and literary references.  Long suffering sidekick Lewis appears here as frequent visitor to Morse, but the book is focused mainly on Morse himself.  Really well done and engrossing read.  I can see why it won the Gold Dagger Award for Best Crime Novel.

I am beginning to feel in the holiday spirit already and so I picked up Quiet Murder from my local used bookstore purely based on the cover.  It is part of a series which I have not read or even heard of before.  The story is centered around the torture and murder of an old age pensioner, indeed most of the characters are old age pensioners from the same area of London.  It is refreshing to read  a book in which the aged are not just sitting by the fire or needing protection from the evils of the world.

There are lots of interesting elements here, references to war crimes, theft of Jewish assets during the war, fate of the elderly poor, and the interaction between Mavis and GDH Pringle.  And I certainly didn’t solve the crime before the reveal.  I just felt that it lacked some suspense or tension to keep the reader turning the pages.  A quiet, cozy mystery with dark themes (torture, war crimes).

Poison Parsley by Anna Clarke was another impulse purchase.  I like to find American cozies with themes I am interested in since you often tend to read as much about the theme as the mystery.  This is about herbology and for the murder part, natural poisons.  The parts about the plant life and the dangerous plants around us was really interesting and well done.  I just found the relationships between the characters hard to take, Rosalind and her son Martin, Bernard and Jane, Jane and basically everyone else.  Some of the characters were one-dimensional and it made it difficult to get involved in the story.

Deadly Lies is this month’s bargain book over at the Kindle English Mystery Book Club.  There are times that the writing seems a little awkward or perhaps just doesn’t seem to flow naturally, however I felt the plotting was well done and the storyline was engaging and kept my interest.  The writing of the main character, Anna Barham, was a particular strength of the book.  The writer was brave enough to write a character who many people would find issue with and yet she did so unapologetically.  There is no overused characterization here of a drug or alcohol dependency issue, rather Anna simply has abdicated responsibility in a way that some might find cold-hearted,  in the pursuit of career success. I found this well done, maybe because I know people IRL in this situation.

I also found it interesting that the author has gone against the current trope of the autistic savant that seems to be prevalent in crime fiction and has instead given us a darker look at autism and the impact on a family.  While I wouldn’t say this was on the level of a PD James or Colin Dexter, there is still enough here to make this a decent bargain read.

November Group Read

I’m still waiting for this one from the library. Hope to have it soon!

Kindle British Mystery Book Club

A psychological suspense debut novel is our read this month with “Good Me, Bad Me” by Ali Land. This book has also been a Richard and Judy book club pick for their site.

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The blurb on the book says…
Good Me Bad Me is dark, compelling, voice-driven psychological suspense by debut author Ali Land.

How far does the apple really fall from the tree?

Milly’s mother is a serial killer. Though Milly loves her mother, the only way to make her stop is to turn her in to the police. Milly is given a fresh start: a new identity, a home with an affluent foster family, and a spot at an exclusive private school.

But Milly has secrets, and life at her new home becomes complicated. As her mother’s trial looms, with Milly as the star witness, Milly starts to wonder how much of her is nature, how much of…

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The Secrets you Keep, Good as Gone & Death by Coffee

 

I didn’t officially participate in Dewey’s 24 Readathon this weekend, however I read when I could and managed to finish 3 books.

The Secrets You Keep by Kate White concerns Bryn, a self-help book writer, who has recently been in a serious car accident.  During her recovery,  she moves to a summer residence with her husband and begins to question her accident and the events leading up to it.  A murder occurs in their town exposing more secrets and lies and making her doubt her husband and marriage.

The themes explored here in this psychological mystery are memory and secrets and once again the idea that we can never really know another person.  The character of Bryn was well drawn and having been to Saratoga I found the setting interesting but it was not really a well-defined.  Unfortunately the killer was obvious to me fairly early on and I wasn’t at all distracted by the red herrings presented.  This was an okay read for me, but to be fair that might be because I feel like I’ve read a few very similar books.

Good as Gone by Amy Gentry details what happens to a family when a missing child returns.  It explores the idea, taken right from the news, of whether or not the child really is who they say they are.  I find this kind of book horrifying, the idea that your child can disappear and you might never know what happened to them.  The damage done to the ones left behind is tragically laid out.  The twist was not what you expect and elevated this book above the others  that have similar plots.  I didn’t really feel a strong sense of suspense, edge of your seat style, but I did want to get the end to figure out what happened and how it would resolve.

Death by Coffee by Alex Erickson is the first cozy I have read in a while and I picked it out on impulse due to the theme.  The idea is really fun, a bookstore cafe with some puzzles and cats thrown in.  The side characters are a quirky lot of the comical and theatrical variety.  The victim is the guy that everyone could do without, not too many tears shed here and the plot had enough clues and misdirection to make it interesting.  My issue was with the protagonist, Krissy.  She is beyond pushy and brusque dealing with her suspects, no gentle hinting or forming relationships to help her solve the case.  She is also a slacker at work and comes across as entitled, leaving her friend and co-business owner Vicky holding the bag more often than not.  When I read cozies, I expect to like the protagonist and be rooting for them, not wincing at their behavior.

If You Only Knew & A Little Light Magic

I received both of these romances at the NJRW Reader and Blogger Appreciation Luncheon.

If You Only Knew by Kristan Higgins is a fun romance read based around the life of  Jenny Tate, wedding dress designer and small business owner.  Jenny has returned home after a divorce in New York City and opened a boutique wedding dress shop.   She is both recovering from the heartbreak of her divorce and  spending time with her sister, Rachel of the “perfect” marriage.

A romance that talks about sisterhood, about living the life you have rather than the one you dreamed of (or thought you had),  secrets and honesty, and love after grief.  The relationship between the sisters is well detailed and feels authentic, right down to striking out at people who make you feel safe.  This relationship was very well done.  The romance was lovely and full of the natural one step forward, two steps back progression that comes from two people scared of being hurt again.  Bittersweet side plot involving a dog – yay for puppies!  I really enjoyed this quick, sweet romance.

A Little Light Magic by Joy Nash takes place at the Jersey shore and that made it interesting to me right from the start.  I am familiar with the locations talked about and I find that kind of connection fun in a book.  Tori and Nick meet when she tries to hire him to bring the house she inherited up to code.  Tori believes in magic and wants to open a magic – as in fortune-telling, palmistry, spells, and charms – shop.  Nick is a builder and is thoroughly down to earth and doesn’t believe in anything Tori has to sell.

The story follows their on again – off again romance and connects it to Nick’s family and the issues he is having keeping them all in line.  Nick and Tori both have tragic but very different histories and this is an opposites attract type romance story.  A steamy romance and a touch of magic along with a well-developed sense of place!