The Chessmen & Knots and Crosses

Two more books down from my giant TBR list…The Chessmen by Peter May is the final book in a trilogy that included The Blackhouse and The Lewis Man.  At this point in the books, Fin is no longer a police man.  Now he is private security and is given the job of stopping poaching that is occurring on the estate.  His job reconnects him with Whistler, a childhood friend, and then embroils him in a mystery involving a missing airplane and pilot  from decades before.

First rate writing and plotting of the mystery.  There is some resolution of events from the first two books, so I would suggest reading the trilogy in order, I’m not sure how it would do as a stand alone.  The setting and the characters, especially Fin, really are what makes these books stand out among many of the other mystery/thrillers that are out there. This is a fast paced read, yet it manages to have a dark, moody feel to it.  Fans of atmospheric thrillers, such as Ann Cleeves work will enjoy this!

Knots and Crosses by Ian Rankin is the first book in the Inspector Rebus series.  This is a mystery novel in which the focus is really on the detective more than anything else…and he is a hard character to like, seeming to be tortured by demons from his past, related to SAS training, he drinks and smokes too much.  He is divorced and doesn’t seem that close to his daughter, although he does love her.  His performance in the police force has not led to promotions or success.  His relationship with his only brother, Michael, is strained.  Perhaps as the series progresses and he faces some of his issues he becomes a more likable character.

The mystery although initially presented as a random serial killer, has a personal connection to Rebus.  I don’t want to say anything more to spoil the book for anyone else, but just that some of his actions made no sense to me, but I suppose they are intended to demonstrate the depth of his issues??  I might pick up and read a later one in this series to see how it progresses.

 

 

2 from Marian Keyes

Picked up these two from one of my favorite authors, Marian Keyes.  Just what I need to see me through my recovery.  About a month ago I sprained my ankle, really badly, rolled it completely.  We’ve tried the casts and the braces and just giving it time and….nothing.  Finally, I had an MRI and they determined that I had 1 torn tendon, 1 inflamed tendon, and a hairline fracture of my ankle…fun times.  Anyway on Thursday, they did an Amniofix implantation to try to fix it.  My doctor raved about the procedure..”it’s great, I’ve done hundreds recently, only about 2% of people need surgery after it”…all happy, happy about this, then the tagline  “there is something I need to make you aware of …you will be in excruciating pain for 3 to 4 days afterwards and there is nothing I can do about it, any pain killer I give you will just take the edge off, won’t really touch the pain”  He made this announcement with a big smiley happy face.  Anyway, I stocked up on books to read through my “excruciating pain period” and thought Marian Keyes would be a good option.

Anybody Out There, is a book about recovery, grief, and of course as in most of the Marian Keyes’ books I have read, family.  I love the way this book drew me completely in, I felt immersed in the characters, their lives and their neighborhood.  I can’t really discuss the main point of the book without giving away some key points, but enough to say that the book tackles real world problems, with Marian Keyes’ unique perspective.  The writing style is highly engaging and pulls the story along at a pretty quick pace.  First rate storytelling, wonderful characters, humor and emotion realism, all aspects of truly great fiction.

The Other Side of the Story, has darker humor and less lightness than other Marian Keyes’ works.  The focus in this book is on the mother-daughter dynamic, which most people would agree (or maybe it is just me) is a dynamic filled with landmines.  A great study of the effect of infidelity on, not just the partners involved,but the extended family as well.  The push and pull of a young career woman, whose mother’s needs conflict with her employers and even her own, is extremely well drawn here.  Excellent storytelling, characters and pacing.  Anyone who has ever felt pulled in all directions will be able to relate to this story.

Echoes From the Dead by Johan Theorin

 

I picked this up based on a Goodreads recommendation and my local library had it.  This is a Swedish mystery translated into English.  I think that this accounts for the fact that the dialogue seems stilted at times, probably a translation issue not a writing issue.

If you are looking for fast paced thriller, this is not the book for you.  This moves at a much more sedate and at times non-linear pace. The focus is more on the after effects of the crime over time.  The central crime is the disappearance and assumed murder of a young child that occurred 20 years in the past.

The case is reopened with the appearance of one of the child’s sandals.  This brings the mother back to the “scene of the crime” and reunites the local people who were around at the time of the child’s disappearance.  Nothing is as it seems, the resolution is not what I expected and it was good to see that it was not a stereotypical child abduction/pedophile story.

The mother, Julia, reunites with her father in the course of investigating the new evidence.  The writer did an excellent job with the depiction of loss and depression that follows in the wake of a child’s disappearance.  I could completely relate to Julia’s issues with not being able to “let go” or move on from the loss of Jens.  I have always imagined that having a child disappear without a trace would be worse than a situation in which you know they are dead.  The not knowing would drive me mad, in Julia’s case she hangs on to her sanity with the aid of drink and isolation.

My only criticism would be that the ending or reveal seemed somewhat abrupt, however I have since realized that this is book one in a quartet so that is maybe to be expected.

On the Slam by Honor Hartman & Mayhem at the Orient Express by Kylie Logan

I have read the two other series written by Dean James/Miranda James/Honor Hartman and enjoyed every book.  I have recommended them to my few cozy reading friends, they were so good. I finally got to this series under the name of Honor Hartman, A Bridge Club Mystery series.

On the Slam is another delightful cozy mystery.  I used to play Bridge years ago, along with several other card games, but I don’t know anyone who plays anymore. Reading this quick, fun cozy brought it all back for me.  I actually went on  Meetups to see if there were any local Bridge clubs I could join, alas there were none.  I will have to get my fix vicariously through this series.

The main character, Emma Diamond, is a widow, who recently moved into the neighborhood to be close to an old friend.  There is a neighborhood bridge club and at the first meeting that Emma  attends there is a murder.  Emma and her Bridge playing sidekicks, jump into the investigation.  The character of Emma is likeable and interesting.  She is still grieving her husband, but not in the woe is me self pitying way.  She seems to have too much self respect for that.

There are interesting suspects and twists and turns on the way to a neat resolution.  There are some hints of romance, not necessarily for Emma.  There are also typical neighborhood gossips, cats, and dogs to round out the story.

Highly recommended cozy.  I’m off to order the rest of the series.

Mayhem at the Orient Express, is a relatively new series from author Kylie Logan, who also writes the Button Box mysteries, which are quite good.  In this series, there is a team of sleuths, Bea Cartwright, Chandra Morrisey and Kate Wilder.  They are also neighbors and end up together due to the fact that they cannot get along and the local judge is fed up with it.

Sentenced to a book club and to reading Murder on the Orient Express, the women put aside their differences in the face of a real murder at their much loved local Chinese restaurant, The Orient Express. The story line runs many parallels to Christie’s work, which makes it a wonderful read for Christie fans.  The female leads are very different and there is someone for everyone to relate to.  Bea is the B & B owner with the mysterious past, Kate is the consummate business woman, and Chandra is the holistic healer, earth mother type.

I really enjoyed all the characters, the ties to Christie’s work and the mystery itself.  A fun, quick read for cozy mystery fans.  I am sure I will read more in this series.

Mysteries….and a Lone Romance

 

   
   

I have been going to bed early because I am still sick, but then waking in the middle of the night and reading because I can’t sleep.  These three mysteries and 1 romance/chick lit were on the top of my stack next to the bed.  Very briefly:

Curiosity Thrilled the Cat, a cute cozy mystery with an slight magical slant.  The sleuth is a big city girl who has taken a job now in a small town library.  Kathleen, the sleuth was interesting and intelligent and the cats, Owen and Hercules are great as well.  The book dragged a little in the middle, it could have done with being a smidge shorter.  The ending did pick up.  The mystery and setting were both well done.

Death Al Dente, the sleuth returns home to take over or rescue the family business, a general/food/local produce and products store.  I didn’t get into this one as much as I had expected to.  I just didn’t really care about the characters and some of the  reactions/actions didn’t really ring true.  It might work for someone else.

The Body in the Vestibule, I picked this one up out of order.  I was somewhat hesitant due to the fact that the sleuth (and main character) was a minister’s wife. I was afraid that it would have heavy religious overtones, but it didn’t.  The mystery takes place in France, I loved the setting and it was very well done!  The mystery  was full of twists and turns and lots of characters.  Well written and the pace of the plot was steady.  The only criticism was that it was slightly dated (some political references to the European Union, etc) but other than that a nice, cozy mystery.

Goodbye, Jimmy Choo, not so sure what to classify this, romance definitely occurs but there is lots of family drama and shopping as well.  I guess it is a romance/chick lit.  Well developed characters and an interesting plot.  You will have to suspend your disbelief slightly on the business portion of the book, but it is quite a good upbeat (at the end) read.