Diamond Solitaire by Peter Lovesey

This is the second book in the Peter Diamond series.  I really liked the first book in this series and that is why I picked this one up.  This second outing in the series is very different from the first, Diamond is no longer a policeman, he begins the book as a Harrod’s department store security man, which he doesn’t last very  long as once it is discovered that a small child has managed to breach security.

Losing the job at Harrod’s has left Diamond with time on his hands.  Intrigued by the fate of the still unclaimed Japanese child, he begins to develop a relationship with her and to investigate how she ended up in Harrods.  The investigation trots around the world and involves the cut throat business of pharmaceutical manufacturing and the quest for the next big drug.  Naomi, as she is known to Diamond, appears to be autistic and/or suffering from selective mutism.  Diamond is determined to see this little girl safely home and solve the mystery that surrounds her.

This is just as well written as the first in the series, however a different style.  There is more of a thriller/international chase feel to this book.  I did enjoy it but I found some of it a little far fetched,mainly to do with the actual treatment of Naomi.  The child is discovered and not claimed and then placed in a school for autism where Diamond is given unlimited access to her.  Then, a woman shows up claims the child and waltzes off with her.  The villain and the whole pharmaceutical plot was well done and was tied together with Naomi in a satisfying resolution.

 

 

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A Share in Death by Deborah Crombie

This took me quite  a while to get round to reading.  I checked it out of the library a couple times and never got around to it before having to return it, until this time.  I am glad that I did read it this time.  This was a Agatha Christie-like English country house murder mystery.  Our sleuth, Superintendent Duncan Kincaid, accepts a holiday time share to an estate in the Yorkshire countryside, wakes up to use the pool early and finds a body.  He is not accepting the local police’s assumption of suicide and so ends up having a “working vacation.”

Very well crafted mystery plot, with more than one murder, hints of blackmail, and infidelity scattered about.  Secrets abound among the group of vacationers with some having more to hide than others.  The stories are all cleverly woven together, there are no unnecessary story lines or characters.

Superintendent Kincaid has a sidekick in the form of his Sergeant Gemma James, a single working parent.  Gemma helps Kincaid with this case long distance, since he is away on vacation, however I am sure that as the series progresses her role will be more prominent.  After all, the series is  Duncan Kincaid & Gemma James, not just Kincaid.  Gemma seems like a good counterpoint sidekick for Kincaid and I look forward to seeing how the relationship between the two develops.

The series feels very much like Midsomer Murders, in fact Kincaid reminds me somewhat of Barnaby, so fans of that TV series should enjoy this!  This is an exceptional example of an English country house style murder and a highly recommended read.

Resolution & A Brush with Death

Resolution is the third book in the Garnethill trilogy by Denise Mina.  I would highly recommend reading this series in order…or you will be completely  lost.

It is hard to discuss too much about this book without giving away spoilers to the first two in the series, because this plot wraps up events from those books.  On the whole this is a dark, gritty, violent series.  It covers a gamut of issues from childhood sexual abuse, alcoholism, family dysfunction, infidelity, drug abuse, rape and of course murder.  The protagonist, Maureen, as a drunken, self destructive incest survivor drives this whole trilogy.  The closest character I can compare her to is Lisbeth Salander of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo fame.

The negatives with the books, all of them, for me occur whenever Maureen interacts with the police officers. Those scenes seem to range from unrealistic to cartoonlike, especially by book 3 in the series.  Has Maureen learned nothing about the criminal justice system and dealing with police by that time??  Overall, a good trilogy with character development and growth over the course of the arc, an excellent sense of place, and  a nicely woven plot, if perhaps a little too neatly tied up in the end.

 

A Brush with Death is the second in the Penny Brannigan series set in Wales.  This book picks up right where the first one  left off.  Penny is living in the cottage she inherited from her close friend, Emma.  She stumbles upon a mystery from Emma’s past and feels compelled to follow it to the end.  I quite enjoyed the first in this series, however this one fell  somewhat flat for me.

The positives are the character descriptions and the setting.  Well executed to the point that the reader can “see” the people and the town.  There are a couple new characters that are introduced that I assume will be recurring because of the time spent developing them.  The mystery was interesting and I definitely had the culprit wrong, however there was information withheld from the reader until the reveal, so I don’t suppose you could solve it completely.

The negatives are that the romantic subplot didn’t really work for me. I didn’t get a sense of chemistry between the characters, but that is not a huge element in a mystery.   The dialogue was often stilted or on the other had silly.  The mystery seemed almost secondary, a bit emphasis in the book was the examination of change in social issues.  Although the portrayal of attitudes and the connection to a possible murder motive made this pertinent, it felt overshadowing to me.

I really did like the first book, so I might pick up the third one given the opportunity.

Blind Date by Frances Fyfield

 

 

I have not read any other work by Frances Fyfield, however I did watch and enjoy the TV series of the Helen West Casebook, which was based on her Helen West books.  I picked up this book because it was a selection for this month for the Kindle English Mystery Club on Goodreads.

I liked a lot about this book, the characters of Elisabeth Kennedy and Joe, were interesting in themselves and as a relationship.   The villain(s) twisted relationship revealed over time was intriguing and well done.  I found the setting, Elisabeth’s church tower apartment well done (and it is an important part of the story). The psychology of Elisabeth, the relationship between her and her mother, sister, and nephew is well done.

The mystery has more of psychological thriller feel to it than any other sub genre of mystery. The pacing was well suited to this type of mystery.

The issue I had with this book was with  character development.  I didn’t really get  a sense of Joe’s back story and I had trouble keeping his friends straight because they were not well defined enough.  I didn’t even understand entirely the idealization of Elisabeth’s sister, unless that was just some post-mortem “don’t speak ill of the dead” kind of thing but it seemed like an ongoing aspect of their relationship.  Even Joe realized that the story of Emma was too good to be true.  On the plus side, by eliminating some back story and character development, the pacing is accelerated.  This is fast moving and a quick read.

Overall, I did enjoy this and would read another book by Frances Fyfield.

The Absent One by Jussi Adler-Olsen

  I just read the first one in this series and really enjoyed it so I was happy to get this one so quickly.  I love the character of Carl Morck.  I liked seeing how his success on the first Dept. Q case has changed him, making him more confident and more passionate about his work.

I do think this second outing in the series was not as good as the first.  My first issue was that the translation did not seem done as well.  The dialog flowed better in the first book and I am assuming that this is a translation issue not a writing issue.  The second “problem” was the limitation of Assad’s role in this book, he was not as prominent or as humorous as in the first one.  I really enjoyed this character and the developing relationship with Carl in the first book.  I will say that Assad came back strongly in the last 50 pages.  Finally, the plot as a whole seemed  more far fetched in this book. The over the top villain and all the animal hunting/cruelty was a little much.

The reader should be aware this is not really a whodunnit.  From the beginning, it is just an effort to find proof to link the group to their crimes, rather than determining a culprit.   I did not have an issue with the  violent, destructive nature of the group, I actually find that very timely with stories in the news today of teens “wilding” and events that occur in the city I work in, so that part was believable for me.   There was still plenty to like here and so even with the issues I had with The Absent One, I still will continue with this series.

The Killing of the Tinkers by Ken Bruen

 

I  just recent read the first in the series and enjoyed it so much that I picked this one, The Killing of the Tinkers, up from the library.  In this  outing of the series, Jack Taylor is more messed up (if you can believe that is possible) than he was in the first book.  Jack has decided to add a side of cocaine addiction to his already rampant alcoholism on his path to self destruction.  On top of the drugs and alcohol he also is burning through women, including a wife he picked up in London.  Now that Sutton is gone, Jack has acquired some new sidekicks, Keegan and Sweeper, who add their own color to the book.

In this book, the mystery surrounds murdered gypsies (tinkers) and as a side plot, murdered swans.  Jack stumbles his way drunkenly  through the mystery, acquiring some pretty brutal injuries along as the way and losing some teeth.  It seems like you should be able to smell the whiskey dripping off the pages at some points.   The resolution is messy, not a typical  “neat and clean with all the ends tied up”, but it suits Jack and his decidedly messy life.  I am definitely going to continue with this series of very engaging page turners, even though this biggest mystery might be how Jack stays alive.

Death in Disguise by Caroline Graham

  This is another book that the series Midsomer Murders is based on.  In this series, Barnaby is investigating a murder that occurs in a new age commune.  The contrast between the supposed mission of the new age center and the back stabbing and open arguments that occur among the varied guests and staff is quite amusing.  The book begins with establishing the community and all the players, Barnaby does not even appear in the first hundred pages or so.  Those hundred pages require attentive reading to keep all the players straight for later on.

There are secrets upon secrets leading to many twists and turns in the plot and numerous red herrings.  This kept me turning the pages right to the very end.  Very engaging mystery, even though I have watched the TV episode, I still enjoyed the book immensely.