Three Graves Full by Jamie Mason

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This was a total impulse read.  I saw it on the shelf at the library and grabbed it.  The strong points include beautiful lyrical prose, black humor sprinkled throughout and very realistically drawn, if a bit tragic,  characters.

Jason Getty is a bit spineless, a bit of a loser, a victim in life and Harris hones in on that weakness, in the way that bullies have of smelling out their victims.  Soooooo, then mild-mannered Jason finally has enough and then he has a body in his backyard.  The book takes off from there and the opening line of the book sets the tone for the story,

There is very little peace for a man with a body buried in his backyard.

There are lots of twists and turns in the plotting as Jason discovers that the corpse he planted is not the only one in  his garden.   Quick fun to read mystery with great suspense and more literary prose.

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Second Life & The Distant Echo

I finished both of these recently, in between a reread of S.J. Bolton’s Sacrifice , which I loved, for a book club.  Second Life had an interesting idea to play with as a story line.  One murdered sister, a surviving sister with typical survivor’s guilt muddied by alcoholism and addictive tendencies, swirled together with the son they shared and people who are probably not who or what they seem.  Throw in some international travel, a pretty judgemental husband with a savior complex, a dysfunctional childhood,  and watch it all explode.  I just feel that it should have been better than the book that came out if it all.  I wasn’t surprised.  I knew who was “the bad guy” and what was happening and even figured out much of the detail as to why.  This one just fell flat for me.

The Distant Echo is, to my knowledge, my first Val McDermid novel.  I have obviously seen her name around but haven’t picked up anything by her to read.  This case involves some college students finding a dying girl, trying and failing to save her and the fall out of those actions.  Years later they are being picked off one by one and the only recourse is to try to solve the original case to figure out what is happening. There are lots of twists and turns and characters on the way to a final resolution to solving Rosie’s murder.  A very well plotted mystery

In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

23783496  Leonora, or Nora as she prefers to be called now or Lee as she was known in her youth, wakes up in the hospital badly injured from an accident and not really sure what happened.  She just remembers she was at a hen party for someone she hadn’t seen in ten years and it had been an excruciatingly uncomfortable time and  something terrible had happened.

The book flips back and forth between the present and the past.  In the present, Leonora is in the hospital recovering from injuries with at least one dead friend and amnesia.  In the past, the events leading up to and during the weekend are uncovered.

Leonora’s fear for her friends and herself is palpable. Her uncertainty in the face of her inability to remember feels real.  The mounting tension as the weekend plays out with the dynamics between the characters is extremely well done and drives the novel along at a fast pace.  The only issue  was that I had no doubts from almost the beginning who was behind it all and why, but even with that I still enjoyed the book greatly and would recommend it.

Ragdoll by Daniel Cole

30653986  Ragdoll is  the first in a new series. The protagonist DS William Fawkes has been recently reinstated after very publicly losing his mind in court, attacking a defendant found not guilty, the so-called Cremation Killer, and spending some time in a mental hospital.  Now he is back in the saddle again a new career making case has arrived.  A body, actually a body made up of parts of multiple bodies has been found and a hit list of future victims with William’s name at the bottom.  There seems to be tie ins to the The Cremation Killer case and William, Baxter and the team are in a race to save the victims on the list, identify the body parts and find the connection.

Very well done thriller, fast paced, with good plot development and intriguing relationships between the characters.  Fawkes himself is interesting, although I find it a stretch to say that anyone would find him well enough to be back at work.  The resolution did a good job tying up all the loose ends of the case.  This novel very much had a feel like the movie Seven, but with more going on between all the characters.

The Good Widow, The Black Witch, and The Third Girl

The Good Widow was received from the author at BEA for a free for a fair review.  I specifically circled this one on the BEA program to pick up because I had been reading about it and it sound interesting, so I was excited to get it.  “Jacks” Morales is the good widow of the title, recently bereaved, in a strange occurrence.  Her husband died in Hawaii with another woman when he was supposedly in Kansas on business, hmmmm.

The story unfolds as Jacks and the “other woman’s” fiance decide to retrace the deceased pair’s last days in Hawaii to find out what happened and why.  Jacks uncovers some truths about herself, her marriage and her husband in the process, but that is not all she uncovers.

The pacing is excellent and the point of view shifts are well done.  The chapters shift between before and after and also between Jacks’ POV and Dylan’s, the other woman,  POV.  It is definitely a fun  and engrossing read and there are moments of psychological tension.  The only let down is that I saw the “twist” coming from almost the onset and in fact I’m almost sure I’ve seen a Lifetime movie with this twist.  So, there was no wow moment of a reveal.

I have been waiting for The Black Witch from the Library for quite a while ever since I read the controversy surround the book.  Pretty much when people tell me I should not buy a book, should not read a book, my eyeballs will bleed if I read a book,  my oppositional nature pokes through and I put it on my TBR.  I also felt that it was hugely unfair that even before the book came out there were people rating it 1 star on Goodreads and saying directly in their reviews that they had not read it.  They were rating based on other bloggers saying it was controversial.

The Black Witch is about a young woman who lives in a very “racist” society, although I would think that specist would probably be more correct since we are talking here about discriminating against Dragons, Kelpies, Elves, etc. but obvious metaphors for racism.  Elloren is the descendent of the last Great Black Witch and has disappointingly, as far as her aunt is concerned, thus far shown no aptitude to be the next one.  Her uncle whisked her away to be raised in a small village in the country sheltered from the  evils occurring in the city.

The story is engaging and the world and its political system/history is explained enough without being drawn out for pages and pages.  Despite being almost 600 pages, I found the book to be a really quick read.  Elloren is understandingly naive and unaware of her own prejudices and indeed the evils of her society until she goes to University and engages with others who are different from herself.  She is racist, classist and elitist.  She is all of those things and completely lacks self-awareness.  She can see the evil of the Kelpie in distress in a cage, but doesn’t connect that to the field Urisk that worked in the fields surrounding the village where she lived.

The critiques of this book as racist, in my opinion, miss the point.  The book is directly addressing issues of racism, classism, sexism, mental illness, elitism in University settings, immigration and deportation, and  sweat shop and child labor.  The weakness is that the book is written on about the same level as  Harry Potter.  In fact, I think kids who liked Harry Potter would really like it, but they might not get all the issues being addressed.  (It is a little darker than the first Harry Potter, but later books in the Harry Potter series got darker and this is on par with them in that aspect).

I found The Third Girl lovely!  The first in a new mystery series, set in a small village in France.  The protagonist, Molly, just has purchased and opened a small bed and breakfast type establishment as she finds her feet after a divorce.  The village is home to a small exclusive art school and one of the students goes missing and though Molly does not set out to investigate she becomes mixed up in the case.

The strong point of this book is the sense of place.  You come away feeling that you really know the community, the village in France, the people, the cafe, the neighbor who hangs out her La Perla lingerie, the barman and the police officers.  That is what really drew me into this book.  The mystery was entertaining and wrapped up well in the end.  There were enough red herrings to keep the reader guessing.  I look forward to reading more in this series.