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!
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 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 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!
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.