Blood Harvest by Sharon J. Bolton

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Blood Harvest  has been on my TBR for a while and I added it to the last group I picked up from the library.  This novel encompasses much of what SJ Bolton does well a great sense of place, a menacing almost claustrophobic feelings of menace,  hints of the supernatural, and interesting, complex characters.   Here a family has moved into a new house on the edge of a village right next to the graveyard and church and a new vicar arrives as well.  Soon it becomes obvious that their new haven is anything but a safe sanctuary.  A gang of youths that appear at will to terrorize the children, a strange child who appears to  only a few, voices calling out to people where no one seems to be, and the deaths of children that may or may not be connected all come together to ruin their ideal of country life.  Good psychological thriller.

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The Cold Blue Blood, The Wine of Angels, & The Hypnotist

 

 

These are three books that have lingering on my TBR and I found that they were available at my library so I checked them all out.  I am three for three with these reads.  I enjoyed all three of them.

The Cold Blue Blood is the first in The Berger & Mitry Mystery series.  The sleuths make a great team with their differences really complimenting each other.  Berger is a grieving 30 something widower, whose favorite habitat is a darkened theater.  Mitry is a legacy police officer, picking up where her famous father picked up.  The pair of them meet up on Big sister, a small exclusive community where Berger is staying for the summer and Mitry is investigating a murder.  The case ends up being connected to more bodies and there are plenty of suspects to consider before it is resolved.  Very good first in a series.  I already requested the second from the library.

The Wine of Angels is my first Phil Rickman and I didn’t know what to expect.  What I found was a fascinating blend of supernatural elements and mystery in one novel.  Merrily Watkins has moved to a new parish with her teen daughter Jane, to take over eventually as the vicar.  Expecting a quiet village that is a break from her city postings, she instead finds political backstabbing, suicides, pagan rituals, a perhaps haunted vicarage, and much more.  I loved the setting and the depiction of the village, the vicarage, and the orchard.  The characters were well developed and interesting people.  There were multiple references to the poet Thomas Traherne and the musician Nick Drake which added to the color of the book.  I don’t read a great deal of supernatural but this is the kind that I like, very much, “Wickerman-esque” or a British Folk Horror feeling.  The mystery was well plotted and kept the reader guessing.  I really enjoyed this.

The Hypnotist by Lars Kepler is a Nordic Noir novel.  DI Joona Linna, who always has to be right, is leading a team investigating what he believes to be a family annihilation, even when others see it as a debt collection gone wrong.  The murders lead him to the hypnotist, or rather the reluctant hypnotist, a man who has swore never to hypnotize anyone again after a traumatic event involving one of his patients.   There was some awkwardness it seemed in places in the writing, but I chalk that up to translation.  The story as told in time shifts and through different characters was well done and completely captivating.  The villain(s) are particularly creepy.   Explores dark themes surrounding child abuse, child murder, mental illness, and revenge.   Very good Nordic Noir read.

 

 

The Cold Dish & Deadly Errand

 

I recently finished watching the Longmire TV show and really liked it so I decided to pick up the books to read, The Cold Dish, is the first in the series.  The book really stands out from the early series in the development of the characters of Vic and Lucien.  Vic because I live near Philly and the Vic of the book is definitely a good rendition of some  Italian Philly natives I have met.   Lucien is much more defined, I feel like I know more about  him in the book and he also is funnier.   That being said, I think I preferred Longmire himself from the TV show.

This was a good mystery read, with great characters and a fascinating setting.  I will read more in this series.

Deadly Errand by Christine Green was on my TBR.  I’m not really sure when I added it or why.  It involves a young woman who is trained as a nurse but who wants to give up traditional nursing to be an investigator, specifically investigating medical cases.  Her first case is a young nurse who is stabbed to death on the grounds of a facility during the night shift.  Her family asks Kate to investigate.  The case is bound up in harassment, fraud, and some religious fervor for good measure.

Everything about this was okay.  It didn’t really grab me to be honest.  The most interesting character was a sidekick, Kate’s landlord, Hubert, who is a mortician and she spends time discussing her cases with him.  I probably will not read more in the series.  Might be more interesting to people who like to read medical/nursing oriented mysteries.

Child’s Play, Blacklands, Tigerlily’s Orchids, Harm Done, and The Surrogate

I received a free digital copy of Child’s Play by Angela Marsons, Book 11 in the Kim Stone series from NetGalley in exchange for a fair review.

I have read a couple other books in the Kim Stone series and enjoyed them, so I was interested when I saw Child’s Play available on NetGalley.  This is book 11 in the series and the character of Kim Stone has definitely show growth over time.  In this installment, a serial killer is at work leaving his victims displayed with gruesome references to childhood play.  Kim and her team along with new addition, Tiffany, work through the clues that lead them to the doorsteps of a  child genius competition and to some former child geniuses.

The characters here were well developed and interesting.  There was a good effort made to give a balanced presentation of  the child genius competition/education industry.  The mystery was well laid out  and the story line is fast paced keeping the reader turning the pages.  A very good installment in this series.

Blacklands by Belinda Bauer is not really  a mystery, more of a psychological thriller.  We know who the bad guy is and what he did.  We know who the protagonist is and what he is trying to do.  The whole point of the books is that 12 year old Steven is matching wits with incarcerated pedophile serial killer, Arnold Avery, in an attempt to lay his Uncle Billy to rest and give his family resolution.  This is a study of the aftermath of a the murder of a child, what it does to a family for generations.

This was an excellent read.  Steven as a character is a protagonist you can really root for in his quest, which in its own way is epic.  Arnold Avery is intricately crafted to be vile and yet compelling, the reader wants to know what makes him tick.  Steven’s desire to heal his family and make them whole again, which is such a relatable desire, pulses through the entire story.  Themes of grief, love, and family are all represented here.

Tigerlily’s Orchids by Ruth Rendell  takes the loves and lives along a small street in London and explores both the beauty and ugliness that exists there.  The characters span a wide breadth of “types” a wealthy trust fund pretty boy having an affair with a lawyer’s arm candy wife, the alcoholic aging divorcee, an couple of ex-hippies reunited now in their sunset years, a trio of college girls from disparate backgrounds,  a caretaker with deviant desires, a mercenary gossip hungry cleaner,  some non-English speaking immigrants, etc.

The novel meanders its way through the residents lives until inevitably someone ends up dead.  Well written mystery with a slow almost leisurely pace, there is this mounting sense of mild tension as the reader waits for what they know must be coming. This is a mystery much more about the journey and the views than the murder itself.

Harm Done is another book by Ruth Rendell, however it is much different due to being part of the Inspector Wexford series.   The crimes start off right from the beginning.  A very puzzling mystery, puzzling for Wexford as well, because even though it seems like the victims are okay, he doesn’t want to let it go.  The third victim is an infant and that changes everything. The resolution here is actually quite tragic.  Very good read.

The Surrogate by Tania Carver reads like it was ripped right from the headlines as there was a similar crime  that made national news recently.  In the novel close to term, pregnant young women are being killed and the killer is attempting to remove the babies, not successfully, at first until he gets better at it.  This was a very dark, gritty, and gruesome read.  Themes of child abuse, self mutilation, mental illness, and gender identity are all wedded into the plot.  Well written and very timely.

 

 

 

Dead Pretty, Flamingo Fatale, Now You See Me & Snap

 

Dead Pretty is book 5 in the Aector McAvoy series.  In this book the focus is very much on Pharoah and the mess of a life her disabled husband has dropped her in without much notice.  Aector and Roisin also feature prominently, reaffirming their life together after the events of the last couple books.  Aector is trying to solve the case of missing girl, while Pharoah is seemingly off on her own tangent involving a man recently exonerated after being convicted.  As Aector delves further into his case, he begins to wonder who he can trust.  Another very good read in this great series!

Flamingo Fatale has been on my TBR list for a long time.  It is written by James Dean who writes a number of cozy mysteries under several pen names.  I finally got to this one because an ebook of it was available on Hoopla.  This is a trailer park themed cozy and the characters provide the “local color” that people would stereotypically expect from them.  The shotgun toting neighbor, the single mom working multiple minimum wage jobs, the teen mom, young men with criminal records, and the like but this is balanced by the fact Wanda and her family come across as real people.  People who are doing their best and yet still struggling to make it.  I think this is something that readers from various places or stages in life can relate to.  I enjoyed this, but I would say it is a little grittier than the average cozy.  Now that I’ve met the basic cast of characters, I will read another in the series.

Snap is another “I need to get to that” from my TBR.  I read Rubbernecker by this author and really liked it so I put this one on my TBR.  This was a solid thriller, with a cold missing person case being connected to something happening in the present day.  The character of Jack, is both tragic and heroic.  The lengths and depths he goes to in order to care for his sisters after the disappearance of his mother versus what should have been his life from the glimpses of his life before her disappearance is heartbreaking.  While the character of Jack provokes an emotional response from the reader, I didn’t really feel much for Catherine and her part of the storyline.  A good read, but I’d recommend Rubbernecker over this.

Now You See Me by Lesley Glaister is not really a mystery read, more of a gradual  unveiling of secrets of two damaged people.  Lamb and Doggo meet and bond, but both have secrets that are inevitably going to tear them apart.  This was just not for me, but perhaps a younger reader could relate more?

The Chemistry of Death, The Zig Zag Girl & Joe Country

 

The Chemistry of Death is the first in a series that I had already read the second one in.  In this David Hunter has moved to rural Norfolk and taken on a local GP post after the death of his wife and daughter.  The discovery of a body leads to him being pulled into the investigation due to his training in forensic anthropology and his previous experience in criminal investigation.  Very well developed sense of place and fully fleshed out characters come together with great pacing and really interesting forensic details.  This is a series that I will continue to read.

The Zig Zag Girl is by an author whose work I really like.  I have read most of Elly Griffiths’ Ruth Galloway series.  This work is different in that the protagonists are male and this is historical, while the Galloway series is set in modern day.  Edgar was part of a group of  “special” agents in the war, most of them magicians set with a task of using sleight of hand and misdirection to fool the enemy.  Now that the war is over Edgar is  police officer and is investigating the murder of a woman connected to magic.  Edgar joins with one of the other men from his unit, Max and together they race to uncover who is picking off people connected to their unit before it is their turn to die.

I really wanted to like this and in fact expected to like it, but it was pretty obvious from very early on who the killer was and except for one detail why.  All the references to magic and misdirection made the main red herring seem heavy handed and too obvious.  I felt that there was nothing to any of the female characters that were introduced.  They were just too superficial.

Joe Country by Mick Herron  is book 6 in the Slough House series.  I generally try to space out books in a series to not read them to close together, but book 5 was so good I couldn’t wait to read this one.  There is a new “recruit” to Slough House, Lech Wicinski, a man who can’t quite believe that he is ending up there.  Jackson Lamb is still his usual disagreeable self.  River’s grandfather, the OB, dies and River’s father shows up at the funeral causing a scene.  Finally, most of the team finds themselves in Wales, in the snow trying to save Min Harper’s son.  This was another excellent installment in the Slough House series.

The Dragon Man by Garry Disher

815139  So, anyway, not quite sure how this ended up on my TBR at Goodreads.  I am trying this summer to work through books which fit in the intersection of on my TBR (or next in one of my regular series) and available at my library and this one fell into that group.  It is Australian crime fiction and I picked it up from the library cold, not knowing anything about it.  I don’t read a great deal of Australian work, I do keep meaning to Harper, but I haven’t got there yet.

On to The Dragon Man, this is the first in a series featuring DI Hal Challis.  He works murders and is assigned in the Peninsula region outside Melbourne.  Young women have begun disappearing and DI Challis is thinking that there is a serial killer and rapist at work.  He is relatively new to the area and to the team and must bring them together to solve this case before more young women go missing.  At the same time the station is dealing with random acts of arson, somewhat organized burglaries and a team of con artists targeting the elderly, so there is a lot going on and some of it may  be connected. 

The sense of place is really well developed.  The reader is definitely immersed in the heat, the isolation, the sense of menace and dread of a women on her own on the side of the road, and the almost closed in feel of living in a small community.  It really works well in this book, especially for someone like myself, who is not familiar with the area at all.  The  serial killer story arc is wrapped up a little too quickly  for my taste, there is no delving into his motivations or background they simply catch him through a connection to another crime.  The other story arcs work well.  The character of DI Hal Challis is intriguing with an ex-wife in an institution for the criminally insane and a  new relationship just starting out.  In this book, it seemed to me he shared top billing with Sergeant Ellen Destry, her story arc seemed just as important as his for much of the book.

Overall, a good solid police procedural and I would read another in the series.