A Sight for Sore Eyes, 13 Steps Down, The Fortunate Brother, & Closer to Home

 

Closer to Home was a bargain read I picked up on my Kindle.  It is the first in the DI Kate Fletcher series.  I really liked it.  Kate is a well crafted character with a complex back story, a slight renegade but not ridiculously so, just enough to be interesting. The case is intriguing with twists and turns, connections to the past and to other crimes.  I did finger the villain, but I still feel as there was a lot that was well done here and I would be interested in reading another in this series.

The Fortunate Brother is a murder mystery set in a small coastal community in Newfoundland, Canada.  A small disclaimer here, this is the third in the series, and I did not read the others.  A thoroughly unlikable man dies and there are suspects a plenty in the claustrophobic community which houses its share of oddball residents.  Themes of mental illness, alcoholism, and abuse abound.  This didn’t really work for me.

I have been having a bit of a thing for Ruth Rendell and I read two of hers back to back.  The first was A Sight for Sore Eyes, which is really three stories which seem to be running along parallel tracks until they finally intersect with some awful consequences.  The first story involves a young girl who is home with her mother when she is murdered, the second story is about a young man who is raised with no affection and barely any human interaction leaving him devoid of normal human emotions, and the third concerns a beautiful young woman, the subject of a rock star’s affections for a time and a famous painter’s muse.  Ruth Rendell masterfully weaves the three tales together to their tragic ending.  As I’ve found in her other books, Rendell’s writing really shines at showing the inner lives of her characters and that is certainly true here.  Very good mystery read.

The second Rendell book I read was 13 Steps Down.  I found this to be a very current feeling story, with its theme of celebrity worship and obsessive love.  Mix is obsessed with a model and we follow his story and the story of his elderly landlady, who has never really had a life or a love of her own due to the controlling nature of her father, now long dead.  Again, the writing here really is at its best when revealing what is going through the minds of the characters, especially when the characters are twisted in some way and their thoughts are juxtaposed with the reactions of the others in the scenes with them.  Another excellent mystery read.

 

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The Ruin and Other Reads…

I received The Ruin by Dervla McTiernan as a Giveaway from Goodreads in exchange for a fair review.  The book starts with Detective Cormac Reilly still wet behind the ears arriving at a remote cottage to find a quiet yet assertive young girl, her younger brother, Jack, and their very dead mother.  He delivers them to the hospital and forgets about the case until years later when Jack, now an adult, dies on his patch.  What is the connection?  Is there one?  What happened all those years ago and what happened to Maude and Jack in the intervening years?

Examinations of religious morality, the ability of “good” people to look the other way and not question the “wrong” right in front of them,  power and corruption,  and the far-reaching damages of childhood traumas are all woven in to this novel with intricate plotting and interesting characters.  Shades of Tana French.  Highly recommended read!

I am going to lump three very short, basically novella length, and free or very low cost Kindle novellas together here that I read through.  Sweet Masterpiece by Connie Shelton was the best of the three.  The protagonist, Sam, has a baking business and another job, getting foreclosed houses ready for sale.  She gets embroiled in a criminal investigation with the discovery of a grave on one property and some famous art.  There is also a tiny magical element here, so a magical cozy mystery.  This was a fun, short cozy mystery.  There was a bump at the end that I found somewhat jarring and probably should knock it down to 3.5 stars.  The other two,  Barbecue, Bourbon and Bullets and Pains and Penalties were just okay.  2 star reads.

Expiration Date is another cozy.  This one is a new-to-me cozy.  The theme is cook off contests.  The protagonist, Sherry,  is a competitor and one of the judges dies after tasting her dish at the contest.  Her sister is also a competitor and along with a friend she makes they look into clearing her name.  An interesting look at the cooking competition world.  This cozy feels like it is more focused on female friendships and lighter on the mystery side of things.

Fit to Die by J.B. Stanley is book 2 in a series I have been reading out of order.  I picked them up as I found them in used book stores as the series was discontinued.  Now the series seems to have been started up again so I am trying to fill in my gaps so I can read the newest book.

The theme here is supper club, a healthy eating supper club.  Professor James Henry is the town of Quincy’s Gap, Virginia’s librarian and the protagonist of the series.  The supper club in this book joins a new fitness/health club in town even though James has his doubts about the pushy salesmanship tactics the owner employs.  An arson and murder occur in town and the supper club investigates.  These books have a great setting, the community of Quincy’s gap with its characters and events is part of the storyline and makes for fun and engaging reading.  I really like this series and I’m happy to see that it has been continued.

See Her Run was a novel that I read about on a blog and ordered on my Kindle.  Aloa Snow is a disgraced journalist, she wrote a story using, let’s say “alternative facts” and now has no real career.  Someone she has a history with, who is now wealthy contacts her to investigate a case of an ultramarathoner who committed suicide.  The athlete is found barefoot dead in the desert, literally ran to death.  The local authorities did a cursory investigation and closed the case.  The more Aloa digs, the more evidence she finds of connections far beyond this one death.  Very good mystery with a suspenseful plot and engaging characters.

Sentence of Death is one of this month’s read at the Kindle English Mystery Club.  There is a serial killer on the loose in Gateshead and he has a mission.  The deaths are connected to a showing of the opera Ring Cycle that is occurring at The Sage.  Detective Sam Snow is in charge of the case.   Olivia is a recently divorced psychologist, who has come to Gateshead to see the opera when she becomes involved in tracking the killer.  The best part is the weaving of the opera and the killings in the story.  I thought the killer was somewhat obvious rather early on but overall I did enjoy read this.

 

 

 

The Glass Room & The Merchant’s House

 

The Glass Room is another excellent outing in the Di Vera Stanhope series.  In this book, the relationship between Vera and her “hippy” neighbors is explored as one of them runs off on a brief adventure and becomes embroiled in a murder.  The victim turns out to be a not so nice University Professor, Professor Ferdinand.  The murder takes place at a writing retreat, so it forms somewhat of a Christie-esque manor house type murder, but not exactly.  As Vera and her team delve in to Professor Ferdinand’s and everyone else’s past at the house, connections to earlier  events are exposed.  Vera’s keen mind and investigative skill puts the clues together to uncover the killer.

Vera is such a great character and she is shown here with her strengths and weaknesses as she works with her team and on her own to solve this case.  The petty jealousies and competitions that arise within the team are so realistic and make for great storytelling. An excellent book in the Vera series!

The Merchant’s House is book 1 in a new to me series.  DS Wesley Peterson is recently transferred to a “quieter” patch from London and is looking to start a family with his wife.  He went to university to study Archaeology and connects with old friends on a dig, who uncover a body at their site.  The mysteries run side by side in the book, Peterson’s modern-day murder and missing child cases and the historical case at the dig site.  I have read other mysteries written in such a fashion, an old case and a new with flashes in between and do enjoy it.  I also read the excellent Ruth Galloway series, which is an Archaeology themed mystery series.  There is not as much of the archaeology here  as in the Galloway books.

I found this to be ok, but the missing child piece was pretty obvious relatively early on and there were really no surprises in the historical case either, which was revealed through diary entries.  I did like the character of DS Peterson and like the idea of a DS who has interests outside of the police.  At this point I am unsure, if I will commit to reading another in the series.

Norwegian by Night

15775210  I saw this book on a blog and picked it up at my local library.  I really am uncertain about reviewing it because I don’t think I can do it justice.  This is so much more than Nordic Crime fiction, it is crosses genres and should definitely be considered literary fiction.  The prose is wonderfully nuanced and the book addresses social political issues particularly surrounding immigration and attitudes towards immigrants, aging, conflicts and war.

Sheldon is a Korean war veteran who has reluctantly moved to Norway to live out what is left of his life with the Granddaughter he raised.  He is beginning to suffer the effects of dementia and the lines between what is currently happening and what happened in the past  are blurred.   The murder of a neighbor sets Sheldon on a desperate journey to save a  child and himself in an unfamiliar country.

This book reminds me in some ways of The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out a Window and Disappeared, which I also enjoyed.  Sheldon is a man of many layers, what people see on the outside, an old man, perhaps beginning to be a little out of touch, needing help, hides an inner core built of  steely determination, intelligence, and independence.   All of this is tempered with a strong dose of survivor’s guilt as stories of the dead emerge from Sheldon’s memory.  Sheldon struggles to stay present and use the skills from his old life to keep Paul and himself alive.

Highly Recommended 5 star read!

A Night to Forget, Cappuccinos, Cupcakes and a Corpse, BlueBuried Muffins, and An Affair to Dismember

 

 

Several shorter reads from my Kindle TBR.  Out of the four of them I’d say my favorite was BlueBuried Muffins by Lyndsey Cole.  This was a short cozy mystery with a theme of a small town cafe store with a free library in it.  Annie Fisher has returned to her hometown in a rush after finding out that her boyfriend Max was perhaps involved in some shady dealings.  The trouble and Max follow her home and soon Annie finds herself in the middle of a murder investigation.  She needs to dig into the trouble Max was in to get to the bottom of it all.  Fun, quick cozy mystery read.

An Affair to Dismember is a cozy mystery read with the theme of a matchmaker.  It was a quick read but it just seemed a little too frantically paced and the some of the characters were over the top quirky .  I just prefer characters that I find more relatable.  An okay cozy mystery read.

Cappuccinos, Cupcakes and a Corpse this was another short, quick  food themed cozy.  Francesca has returned home to run the family business and on her way home after a long day, she discovers the body of neighbor.  The neighbor’s son is an old high school friend and Francesca rekindles the flame and the pair of them investigate the murder.  An okay cozy but too fast and short to do much in terms of character development.

A Night to Forget is  a police procedural with some psychological elements.  DI Meldrum wakes up with some injuries like he’s been in a fight, but he has no recollection of the previous night.  He is later pulled in to a murder investigation where the victim had recently been in a fight.  He struggles to remember and investigate without incriminating himself.  I found the pacing somewhat off as this dragged  in the middle, but the plot was really interesting and kept me going to the end to figure everything out.  I would be interested to see what happened to DI Meldrum next.

Close to Home: A Novel

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This is one of the reads this month at the Kindle English Mystery Club.  Cara Hunter is a “new to me” author and I am really happy that I was introduced to her.  My library actually had the book so I ordered it to be ready for the June reading.  The story concerns a missing child from an upper middle class family.  The child, Daisy, is beautiful and precocious, with a habit of eavesdropping and an old beyond her years understanding that knowledge is power.

The DI in charge of the investigation is troubled by investigating a case concerning a child, so soon after he suffered a trauma of his own.  Eventually, his and his team’s investigation uncovers layer upon layer of lies and secrets, until they “catch their man” .  Twists and turns and red herrings are cleverly laid throughout this novel.  DI Fawley and his team are intelligent and very human investigators dealing with a difficult case.  The family’s secrets are finally all laid bare exposing how even middle class suburbia can be a haven for darkness.

I  really, really, liked this book.  I made the mistake of starting it as I lay in bed and finally I had to put it down because I was nodding off.  I was fortunate the next day was Saturday, so I took it with me on the grocery run and stopped off at Starbucks, sat down with my coffee and didn’t leave until I finished it.   Great mystery, great characters, I look forward to reading more by this author.

The Snow Child, Only the Innocent & How to Walk Away

 

I’ve had a copy of The Snow Child for quite a while but never really felt in the right mood to read it.  This is a story of a childless couple into whose life a young child falls, only not really.  She is child of the woods and the cold and creatures.  She visits and allows them to be kind to her, but she can’t stay, not completely.  Faina, is her name, and the book follows her tale along with her quasi-adoptive parents and the man who eventually falls in love with her.  A beautiful tale of magical realism, in which hope and belief are centered.  The message is certainly “if you love something let it go…”  Very good read!

Only the Innocent is a police procedural, but not really as most of it is told from other points of view.  There is an epistolary aspect to it,  leading to the resolution of the crime and providing most of the clues.  There were some interesting pieces here but some actions of the characters were not in keeping with how they were developed,  IOW didn’t make sense in the context of the developments in the plot.  Very dark themes of child abuse, incest, grooming, rape, torture and murder. It did wrap up nicely in the end, with who I considered the obvious suspect being guilty.  This is the 1st in a new series, but I’m not entirely sure that I would read another.

How to Walk Away...the positives, the research that went into dealing with a diagnosis of paraplegia and with being a burn victim is evident here.  Very well researched on that aspect.  The negatives:   the love story  was extremely predictable and the love interest/relationship was completely, totally, unethical and as such inexcusable.  There was other practical issue that wasn’t addressed that is a huge gaping hole in the plot, but I don’t know how to discuss it without spoilers.  Hence,

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Basically, fiance is a douche who maims and paralyzes her after bullying her into going up in a small plane he is piloting, WITHOUT A LICENSE, which he promptly crashes.  He then drops off the face of the earth because now she is ugly and apparently not being able to walk isn’t sexy.  The FAA findings were for pilot error and there is no law suit???  How does that happen?  She will need care and accomodations the rest of her natural life, plus all the medical bills, and they don’t sue?  No, instead they show up at his wedding to his new WALKING fiance as a way to “show him.”  What?  How does this make any kind of sense?  There is no reference to her parents being multi-millionaires, so I didn’t get this at all.  I mean this is in America, disabled without money, not a nice long term outcome.