The Dramatist by Ken Bruen

323489  This is book 4 in the Jack Taylor series which the TV show is based upon.  I hesitate to say I enjoy these books because they are somewhat of an emotional rollercoaster, depressing, upsetting, even maddening at points and The Dramatist is no exception.  It would be easy to say that Jack Taylor is his own worst enemy but unfortunately that isn’t the case, he has plenty of enemies.

This book starts with Jack in an unusual place, cold stone sober, off drink and drugs and trying to limit the cigarettes.  His dealer is in prison and asks for a favor that drags Jack into a case that no one else even thinks is a case yet.  Amid all that Jack deals with his mother, who is at the end of her tortured life, the jealous husband of an old lover,  and a vigilante crew, seeking justice in their own way.  The resolution is just as depressing and upsetting as Jack Taylor’s life.

I keep reading these because the writing is just that good, the sense of place is completely immersive, and Jack Taylor is a complex and engaging character.  I will definitely keep reading this series, but I would caution anyone starting it that it pretty much has to be read in order.  Galway is developed as a “small village” and Jack runs into people from previous books constantly.  I think it would be difficult to understand all the nuances of the interactions without having read the earlier books.

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The Hanging Girl by Jussi Adler-Olsen

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This is book 6 in the Department Q mysteries.  I just love this series, Carl, Assad and Rose are a great team.  Their interactions and methods of working drive the story along at a nice pace.  In this outing of the series, Carl receives a call which he as no interest in getting involved in.  The caller kills himself and a very reluctant Carl and his team are dragged in to look at a cold case that was the catalyst for the suicide.

Great sense of place, great (and in some instances tragic) characters, an interesting plot involving an obscure religious cult, and obsessive love come together to create an engaging novel.  I didn’t see the end coming and thought the resolution was really cleverly done.  A great, well written mystery, in a series that continues to be one of my favorites.

The Dogs of Riga & Water Like Stone

Two very different mysteries, both from series that I really like.  The Dogs of Riga is the 2nd book in the Kurt Wallander series that the TV show is based upon.   This books sees Kurt leaving home to continue with a case in a Soviet dominated Latvia.  He has no one to trust and at the same time is being told by desperate people that he is their only chance for justice.  The case starts with two bodies in a life raft and ends up being something much bigger and with the potential to end Kurt’s own life.  The atmosphere created here is fantastic, both in Kurt’s lonely and isolated life at home and in the terror filled streets of Latvia.  Really strong sense of place and the characters of Kurt, Baiba Leipa and Major Leipa are fully fleshed out and are able to evoke empathy from the reader.  Fans of the TV series and others who like Nordic thrillers or have an interest in Soviet-Latvian politics would enjoy this book.

Water Like a Stone is book 11 in the Duncan Kincaid & Gemma James series.  This is a Christmas book, as Duncan and Gemma take the children to visit Duncan’s parents for the holiday.  Unfortunately, the body of a small child is discovered by Duncan’s sister as they arrive and Duncan finds himself and even his family drawn into the case.  This was a lighter read and spent a lot of time focused on Duncan and Gemma’s kids and their relationship with Duncan’s family.  The reader also meets Duncan’s sister as she is dealing with accusations of infidelity, a troublesome teen child, embezzlement and a struggling new business.  This was a quick, lighter read, well written, not much of a mystery for the reader to solve, but there is a case to follow in which Duncan is not the lead detective,  and a lot of plot dealing with family life.  A nice addition to the series, I enjoyed it and will certainly continue reading about Duncan and Gemma.

Latest Books…

 

Last time I went to the library EIGHT of my holds all came in on the same day, so now I am frantically trying to get through them before the 31st.

A Dedicated Man is the second in Peter Robinson’s Inspector Banks series.  In this episode, Inspector Banks is investigating the murder of a man that everyone seems to say has no enemies, but the fact he ended up buried under a stone wall with his head bashed in seems to put paid to that notion.  Inspector Banks is given a rather green constable  to help him among others.   A second missing person adds to the case and with a wealth of characters, many who had connections from long ago and some nasty rumors about others swirling around the village, he has his work cut out for him.

A strong sense of place, great characters, and plenty of red herrings make this a great mystery read along the lines of PD James and Ruth Rendell.  I really enjoyed it and am happy to know that there are plenty more to read in the series.

River of Darkness was a book that I became aware of through the Kindle English Mystery Club and decided to give a try.  It is interesting in that it reads like a modern-day serial killer thriller, but is set in the period between the wars in rural England.  An entire family is obliterated and Inspector John Madden recognizes the wounds as he had served time in the Army.  He begins to investigate and eventually finds connections to other murders and builds his case.  In the course of this work, he meets a love interest to help him overcome his rather tragic past.

A decent quick mystery read, but I am not sure if I would invest the time in continuing the series.

Arctic Chill by Arnaldur Indridason is the 7th book in the Inspector Erlendeur novels.  I started this series with the 3rd book as that was the first one translated into English.  I am really enjoying reading these mysteries with the team of  Inspectors Erlendur, Elinborg and Sigurdur Oli.  All three of them are interesting characters alone, well drawn and realistic feeling.  Alongside the mystery, Erlendur deals with his adult children and with his dying mentor giving more insight into his character.

The mystery here has a modern feel as it is deeply wrapped up in  immigration, racism, and xenophobia.  A child with a Thai bride mother is murdered and emotions run deep giving the case a high-profile and lots of leads.  There is a second missing person case that Erlendur feels compelled to solve even though just about everyone else is certain it is a suicide.  A compelling mystery read with a good sense of place and a great cast of characters.   Recommended read!

Die Zauberflote is a libretto for Mozart’s opera The Magic Flute.  I had a ticket to see the show with a friend and wanted to read the libretto ahead of time to be familiar with it.  I felt the storyline was a contrived with over the top drama, but it is not really meant just to be read.  The performance had a great cast and beautiful music at Westminster College.  I still didn’t like the storyline, but I’m glad that I went to see it.

 

 

 

Blood Lines and other reads…

 

Insomnia strikes so I am updating my latest reads.  The first one is Blood Lines, I received a free copy of this title from NetGalley in exchange for a fair review.  This is the 5th book in the D.I. Kim Stone series.  I have read the first Kim Stone book and enjoyed it but fell behind on the series so I am reading this out-of-order.

Kim Stone is reconnected with an old nemesis, sociopath Dr. Alex Thorne, whilst she is in the midst of another case.  D.I. Stone is pushed and pulled between the current murder case and the trouble that Dr. Thorne is stirring up.

This was a great read.  Thrilling and interesting, with a wealth of  engaging characters, it kept me turning the pages long after I should have gone to sleep.  I was fascinated by the workings of Dr. Thorne’s mind and what she was able to achieve through her machinations while “safely” behind bars.  The resolution of D.I. Stone’s mother’s storyline played out well and gave reader’s a real understanding of D.I. Stone and what drives her as a person and an officer.

The main murder case storyline highlighted the importance of the team as a unit and gave time to each of the members.  There were red herrings and multiple leads that the team waded through before being able to tie it all together in a “down to the wire” finish.

I would highly recommend this and fully intend to go back and read the other books in the series.

The Ghost Fields is book 7 in the Ruth Galloway series.  Ruth is a forensic archaeologist, who often gets involved in solving crimes on top of being a college instructor and running archaeological digs.  In this case Ruth’s daughter is starting school.  Nelson is trying to be part of his daughter’s life and maintain his marriage.  The other regular crew of recurring characters are also present in this outing in the series.

The strongest point in all the Ruth Galloway books  has been the wonderful sense of place that they evoke and that is still true in this book.  The setting is so well-formed that it really becomes an essential art of the story.  I did find the mystery in this book was rather weak  considering the  murder happened in the war so the killer had to be in his or her 80s and there weren’t a ton of characters in that age range.  It seemed as though Nelson really didn’t investigate and everything was just sort of stumbled upon.  I am also getting a little weary of the Ruth-Nelson will they, won’t they storyline.

I have loved these books since the beginning but this one is definitely a weak outing in the series.

Night Blind by Ragnar Jonasson is the 2nd in the Dark Iceland series.  This takes place 5 years after the setting of the first book.  Ari Thor is with his girlfriend and they have a young child now.  He was recently denied a promotion and has a new boss since Tomas moved south.

Another good read in this series.  Ari Thor is a complex character with a past and a complicated relationship.  The story begins with a shooting and then Ari’s attempts to solve it are interspersed with diary entries from a mental hospital patient.  The book ties it all together in the end, solving the case and other crimes along the way.  There are themes of domestic violence, drug abuse, and mental illness.

This is a book with a well-developed sense of place. This is truly atmospheric as the reader is immersed in the feelings of being in Siglufjordur.  The setting evokes feelings of isolation and dread.  Really enjoyed this and will be interested to see what the next books bring.

Killing Kate is a  serial killer mystery read.  There is a serial killer in Kate’s home town and he is killing women that look like her.  That is enough to give anyone the heebie jeebies.   Kate was on holiday when it started but now she’s home and on top of the serial killer, she has an ex who is still somewhat persistent.  The main theme explored is domestic violence.  This was a quick read but not one that really grabbed me as anything special.

The Way Through the Woods by Colin Dexter

2805880  This is book 10 in the Morse series by Colin Dexter and it may have been my favorite so far!  Lots of wordplay and puzzles much of it going back and forth through the newspapers as Morse is on vacation.  The central crime is the disappearance (and assumed murder) of a “Swedish Maiden” some years prior.  Morse is on vacation as the case is reopened through clues being published in the newspaper.

Morse’s curmudgeonly personality shines through here and we get to see him as he “enjoys” his holiday and works on a case outside of “proper” channels.  Lewis also has to stand on his own two feet while Morse is away coming to some realizations about the relationship he has with Morse and how it is viewed (perhaps envied) by others.   Finally, Morse and Max’s relationship is given some bittersweet attention here, allowing the reader to see another side of Morse and bringing real depth of emotion to the character.

I am enjoying this series of books greatly and will be sad to reach the end.

Devil in the Marshalsea & Ella in Bloom

Home sick with an upper respiratory infection, I managed to read two books.  The Devil in the Marshalsea is this month’s read at the Kindle English Mystery Club.  I picked up my copy from the library and so it was bumped to the top of my TBR pile.

The Devil in the Marshalsea is a murder mystery set in the mid 1700s in the infamous Marshalsea Gaol.  I really don’t know a great deal about the time period or the  debtor’s prison and I found this fascinating reading.  Pretty much the entire book with a few pages as exceptions takes place within the confines of the Gaol.  There is a large cast of characters, very Dickensian-like in the local color they provide for the book.  A wonderfully developed sense of place (particularly in reference to the smells and sights of the prison).  The author does a good job immersing the reading in the horrific world of the Marshalsea.

The premise is that a murder, initially deemed a suicide, takes place in the Marshalsea, and now a young man, Tom Hawkins, whose debts and misfortunes have caught up with him is sent there.  He is given an opportunity to earn release if he can discover what is going on surrounding the death of the Captain.  The story is fast paced with everything happening within short periods of time.  There are lots of suspects and red herrings, political intrigues/corruption and questionable motives which kept me guessing until the end.  Very enjoyable historical mystery!

Ella in Bloom is a book I received for free in exchange for a fair review from BEA.  This would best be described as a family drama, I suppose.  A story of two sisters, a favourite child and a lesser.  The golden child, Terrell, dies and Ella, the not-so-golden, somewhat disgraced, child is left to try to fill in for her parents.  The book’s prose is well written, and the epistolary   elements are nicely done as well.  I just found the plot lines all a little over-wrought perhaps or maybe just dated?  It seems like the current events should have been taking place 30 years earlier to make more sense to me.

The sisters, Terrell and Ella, both seemed to live their lives in terror of their mother.  Ella fled and lied from a distance and Terrell maintained a perfect picture facade in the hometown.  The father seemed okay with the mother’s unreasonableness and the resultant disconnect in the family or he just didn’t care enough to make any effort.  The mother’s “secret shame” and reaction and attitudes just seemed over the top considering it is supposed to be taking place in the late 80s or early 90s.  I just couldn’t really connect to the plot here.