Escape from the ER
Review
4 Stars
Never Forget - Martin Michaud

This series has been adapted into a TV show that is hugely popular in Quebec but  the books were only available in french. Now they’re being translated, beginning with book #3. The MC’s are detectives Victor Lessard & Jacinthe Taillon, partners in the Major Crimes Unit in Montréal.

 

As the story opens, we learn Victor has just returned to work after being demoted. HIs last case left him a changed man & his physical/psychological fitness is about to be tested. It all begins when an elderly woman’s body is discovered in a warehouse. There’s not much to go on…just some very odd marks on her skin. But she is soon identified as Judith Harper, a retired psychiatrist.

 

Across town, a respected lawyer has received some disturbing mail. Not to worry. Nathan Lawson prepared for this day a long time ago & quickly puts his plan in motion.

 

Meanwhile, a beat cop in another part of the city is struggling to find family of an elderly man who jumped 10 stories to his death. It’s not like he didn’t have ID. In fact, he had 2 wallets….one belonging to someone named Judith Harper, the other to a Nathan Lawson.

 

Oh, Victor. You might want to see if you have any vacation time left. The story begins with several diverse plot lines following separate characters. Initially the only common denominator is none of them are having a good day (especially Judith). As more characters are introduced & the body count rises, it’s clear Victor & his team have a big, snarly murder spree on their hands.

 

The plot is like a labyrinth that twists in a multitude of directions, some of which reach back to seminal moments in the province’s political past. Canadians in particular will recognize references to the FLQ & October Crisis (see link below). It’s impossible to summarize & better to go in blind anyway. The cast is large & some of the chapters feature characters in different decades so you need to pay attention to the time lines. There are a lot of moving parts but instead of getting lost, I quickly found myself in “Damn it, I need to know what’s going on” territory.

 

Interspersed with all the chaos are subplots that expand on the characters’ personal lives, mostly in regard to Victor. He’s a flawed man whose recent experience made him reflect on & accept the mistakes he’s made. Despite dealing with PTSD, he’s a smart & intuitive cop given to poking around wherever his gut feeling leads.

 

So you’re probably wondering why 4 stars. Well, there are a couple of nitpicky procedural things that don’t ring true but unfortunately my main issue was with Jacinthe. I found her crude, offensive & belligerent. Think Roberta Steel without the humour. Her only obvious talent was an ability to navigate the snow covered streets of Montréal at high speed & I’m still pondering the author’s goal behind her character. Perhaps as a foil for Victor’s? I don’t have to like a character but I do need to feel they’re adding a particular element or fulfilling a necessary role. In his notes, the author states “everything, always, must serve the story” so it feels like I missed something as her contribution to the investigation is negligible.

 

It’s all down to personal taste & luckily for me, a number of compelling characters & the intricate plot made up for it. The present day investigation takes place during the Xmas season & the unending snow storms lend a claustrophobic feel that effectively adds to the building tension. 

 

Just a heads up: there’s a fair amount of sexual content & the killer’s MO will have you googling a certain medieval torture device. The title is fitting & plays off the motto “Je me souviens” featured on Quebec license plates. It’s a well written & ambitious procedural that is all about memories….whether they be cherished, forgotten or tweaked.

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Front_de_lib%C3%A9ration_du_Qu%C3%A9bec

 

 

       

Slavin' away.....

I'm supposed to be working from home today. So naturally, I'm watching animal videos. Cats are so weird.

 

 

                           

Review
4 Stars
Galway Girl - Ken Bruen

Against all odds, Galway’s best known fixer is still alive & kicking. Well…kicking may be an exaggeration. Jack Taylor is in a bit of a funk. All the years of hard living are catching up with him & a recent loss has him in a tailspin.

 

If that weren’t bad enough, people around him are dropping like flies. A lovely young cop who made the mistake of being seen with him, another he used to work with…both were killed in brazen attacks. If he didn’t know better, Jack might think he’s the common denominator. Oh wait…

 

Jack has always been a well read guy so I hope he’s up on his Faulkner because the past has just come roaring back to haunt him. The story picks up on events from book #11 (Green Hell) one of the best in the series IMHO. In this instalment, someone is out to destroy everyone Jack cares about before finishing him off. The reason? Well, that would be telling. But we soon learn why an unlikely trio of killers has painted a target on his back.   

 

Jericho is a young Galway girl who’s….uh….a little different (I really don’t want to tick her off). She’s come back to get revenge for a loved one & as far as she’s concerned it’s all Jack’s fault. But she needs help & quickly recruits a couple of locals who have their own bones to pick with the former guard. And so begins a deadly game designed to make him suffer. Let’s face it, Jack doesn’t have a lot of friends left & he’s in no shape to take another emotional hit. But having nothing to lose can be very liberating.

 

Jeez Louise, this one had me looking over MY shoulder, never mind Jack’s. The first “Holy Crap” moment comes at 5% in & the narrative keeps you nervous as you try to anticipate Jericho’s next move. In typical style, the author mixes violence with Jack’s darkly humorous observations on books, sport, politics & Irish culture. It should come across as the story of a bitter man who’s hit rock bottom but Bruen includes small moments that give us a glimmer of hope for his long suffering anti-hero. I had no idea where this was going & I defy any reader to predict how it ends. All I’ll say is if you happen to suffer from ornithophobia you might want to follow Jack’s lead & keep the Jameson nearby.

 

It’s bleak, Irish noir laced with the blackest of humour. In other words, it’s Bruen. So I’ll end with this. Jack, we have to chat. I love you like a brother & worry about you between books. But after the events of this one, I’m rethinking our relationship. Maybe we should keep it casual. You know, like pen pals or something.

 

 

            

Review
3 Stars
Dark Truths - Gillian Cross

This is the first in a series featuring criminologist Will Traynor although the subtitle is a bit of a misnomer. The crimes/investigation we follow are set in Birmingham & while he is part of the investigative team, the story focuses much more on local DI Bernard Watts & the shiny new PC he's saddled with.

 

It all begins with the body of a headless jogger. That would be more than enough to kick off any investigation but unfortunately the site has a few more surprises in store. When links are made to past crimes, Watts & his crew are soon overwhelmed by an increasingly complex case.

 

Like police forces everywhere, Watts’ station is suffering from a lack of funding & manpower. He’s desperate for help but less than thrilled with the chief’s solution. Joining the team are Will Traynor, a criminologist with a tragic past & brand new recruit PC Chloe Judd. Thank goodness he has ace pathologist Dr. Connie Chong to lean on.

 

Watts is an old fashioned copper who ran the cold case unit until it was disbanded. This is his first active case in a while & he provides the steady hand & experience needed to guide the investigation. He & Connie are compelling characters I enjoyed spending time with. Both are intelligent & committed to getting the job done.

 

The plot is layered & well written but a couple of the main characters let the story down. Will is a man on the edge & by his own admission, AWOL much of the time. His mental state is due to an event in the past that has him seeing ghosts everywhere & I found it hard to believe he’d be deemed fit for service. The other would be Chloe. Her uniform is barely out of the package but that doesn’t stop her telling Watts how to run things. For me her inexperience was not an issue…everyone has to start somewhere. It was her OTT behaviour & tendency to pout that made her come across as childish & inappropriate instead of as a professional young woman. The character is just not credible & her scenes left me tired.

 

Despite an abundance of creepy discoveries, this is not a fast paced read. Much of it is taken up by to-ing and fro-ing from various locations & pouring over the same information again & again. But I guess that’s what you do when an investigation stalls. It’s the grunt work that eventually makes a difference. Most of the action is reserved for the last couple of chapters when everything suddenly falls into place & our killer is unveiled.

 

It’s decent start to a new series & after the ending, I have a feeling Traynor will figure more in the next instalment.

 

 

        

Review
3.5 Stars
Let the Dead Speak - Val McDermid

This is a hugely popular series & like most of its kind, you probably enjoy some instalments more than others. I’ve read them all & this was not one of my favourites but that may be down to the format of the story more than content which I’ll try to explain.

 

If you read the last one, no doubt you remember the ending. It was a corker. The old cast of regulars was broken up & here we get to see where everyone landed.

 

First, the elite police unit known as ReMIT has been reformed with some changes. “Oldtimers” like DI Paula McIntyre, DC Stacey Chen & a few others are back. They’re joined by a couple of green recruits & Carol Jordan’s replacement, DCI Ian Rutherford ( a pompous, preening ass who is all hat & no cattle but I digress…).

 

Their inaugural case is disturbing to say the least. A defunct Catholic convent that also served as a home for disadvantaged girls was purchased by developers & construction was going just fine until they dug up the front yard. Bones…lots & lots of bones. By the time Paula & her team get their bearings, the remains of 30-40 young girls have been unearthed.  Hmmm…probably won’t be solved by tea time then. That alone would challenge the new team but the site has a few more surprises to throw at them.

 

Meanwhile ex-cop Carol Jordan is filling her days with DIY projects, long walks & staying sober. Then a couple of job opportunities pop up. One involves Vanessa, Tony’s witch of a mother. The other is an offer from an old adversary who’s started a version of the Innocence Project. They want her to reinvestigate a murder case to see if the wrong man was convicted.

 

As for Dr. Tony Hill, he’s just trying to survive. Life in prison is a daily struggle & he needs something to distract from his current reality. He was in the middle of writing a book when arrested & decides to pick up where he left off. Not like he doesn’t have the time.

 

Initially, the plot lines play out separately in short chapters. They alternate & are told in turn through the eyes of Carol, Tony, Paula, Stacey, a couple other ReMIT members plus a serial killer we meet along the way. Interspersed with these are passages from Tony’s book which signals a change of narrator & story line. And I have to admit I found this frustrating at times.

 

The constant switching of multiple POV’s (often at a critical moment) made it a challenge to become fully engaged in any of the story lines & I was probably at the 60% mark before I got an inkling of that need-to-know feeling. It took that long for each to develop enough to get me hooked. Also, I’m not sure I understood the point of Carol & Vanessa’s little adventure. There are plenty of other threads running & I felt it could have been left out entirely without affecting the overall story. I can’t help but feel I missed something there.

 

By far, my favourite parts were those involving Paula & Stacey. They’re struggling to adapt to ReMIT’s new direction & suffering under Rutherford’s rule (did I mention he’s a pompous, preening….oh ya, I did). They band together to get the job done in spite of him & deliver some of the best dialogue. The story surrounding the convent provides some suspense in what is otherwise a more personal instalment that serves as a transitional book in the series.

 

Eventually the plot lines intersect but as with real life, not everything is neatly tied up by the end. If you are a new reader, this is not a good place to start. There is so much history between these characters that I recommend beginning with an earlier book. So while this didn’t fully work for me, perhaps it was necessary to alert long time fans the series is heading off in a new direction with fresh starts for some of the characters. It will be interesting to see where the author takes them next.

 

 

       

Review
4 Stars
The Pope of Palm Beach: A Novel (Serge Storms) - Tim Dorsey

“The sun was going down behind the Big Burger when the alligator came flying in the drive-through window.”

When a book opens with a sentence like that it can only mean one thing. God help us, they’re back. Yep, Serge A. Storms & his perma-stoned sidekick Coleman are on the road again, embarking on a literary tour of Florida. It goes without saying there will be some speed bumps along the way…you know, just the usual stuff. Angry monkeys, drug dealers, a hermit, sex toys with GPS…the mundane things we all deal with on a daily basis.

Dorsey has been described as Carl Hiaasen on acid. Both write novels that are hilarious, fast paced & full of colourful characters they employ to highlight the state’s constant battle between greedy developers & environmentalists. But Dorsey turns it up to eleven. Serge, his certifiable MC, is a true original & in this outing we get to see how he & Coleman became the terrors of Florida’s backroads. In part one we meet them as children growing up in the more idyllic 1960’s & follow Little Serge’s adventures which include meeting the Pope. No, not that one.

Another thread set in the same time frame introduces the Pope of Palm Beach. Darby Pope is a legendary surfer & all around zen guy much admired in his community. When he takes a young boy named Kenny under his wing, it’s the start of a life long friendship that unfolds in alternate chapters. The story line is funny & poignant & provides a counter balance to zany violence of Serge & Coleman’s road trip.

As the significance of Darby & Kenny’s friendship becomes clear, it’s inevitable the 2 time lines will collide in the present. Aaaand we’re off. They join forces to fight back against skanky criminals intent on settling an old score. Mayhem ensues & some is not for the faint of heart. But you have to hand it to Serge. He may be a killer but he dispatches bad guys in ways you could never imagine.

It’s a wild, violent & completely bonkers vehicle that allows the author to toss satirical barbs at the politicians & policy that are destroying Florida’s fragile ecosystem. And whether you’re giggling or gasping, you’ll learn the history & culture of Florida they never taught in school as you ride shotgun with this deranged duo.

 

 

   

Review
4 Stars
Himself: A Novel - Jess Kidd
Thank goodness for friends who bug you to read something you'd normally never pick up. I finally got around to this & what a wonderful, magical story it is. It begins with the premise of an orphan searching for the mother he never knew & ends up delivering a tale full of humour & mystery.

Mahoney is a charming young man who was left at an orphanage as a baby. All he has is a faded photo of his mother. Naturally he has questions & returns to her home town of Mulderrig to find out what happened. There he hooks up with Mrs. Cauley, an elderly actress who revels in shaking up the residents of this sleepy little town.

At it's heart, it's a possible murder mystery. But there's so much more to enjoy here. Mulderrig is not your typical village. It's a place where you might see frogs perform synchronized dance moves, trees eavesdrop on conversations & books can attack when threatened (do NOT piss off an anthology of Russian literature). 

The prose is gorgeous & you'll find yourself grinning as you turn the pages. The cast ranges from sinister to downright wacky & the dialogue is frequently hilarious. And although many of the characters are already dead, that doesn't stop them from weighing in with their opinions. There's a strong theme of Irish folklore & mysticism that underlies the story & you start to believe anything can happen. 

It's a book that is difficult to stick in one category & reminded me of The MIlagro Bean Field War & The Shadow of the Wind. Magical other worldly forces interact with the living & the result is a story that is touching & funny. I thoroughly enjoyed it & will now become one of those annoying people who pushes this on other readers.
 
 
 
 
 

 

Review
3.5 Stars
The Off-Islander - Peter Colt

Andy Roark is just a guy doing the best he can. A stint in Vietnam left him a changed man & after a short career as a cop, he decided it would be better to work for himself as a PI. So he picks & chooses low level cases that support his simple life.

 

Andy & best friend Danny Sullivan grew up in the tough area of Boston known as Southie. While Andy went off to war, Danny went to college & became a successful lawyer. So what if most of his clients are of the “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse” variety. He’s living the high life, baby & he’s got a job for his old pal.

 

Deborah Swift is a wealthy woman whose husband is a rising political star. When she was a child, her father went out for cigarettes & never came back. He was last seen a decade ago around Cape Cod & she needs someone to find out what became of him. Discretely. God forbid he pop back up during the election & cause a scandal.

 

Discretion is Andy’s middle name & not only will it give him a break from cheating spouses, it means a huge payday. All he has to do is hand over his findings to Danny & collect the cheque. Deal.

 

Ah, if only it were that simple. Andy’s search for Charles Hammond eventually leads him to Nantucket & it’s not long before he realizes there is more to Hammond’s story than he was told.

 

What follows is a well written slow burn kind of suspense with a moody, noirish feel. Initially there’s this vague sense of unease, something you can’t quite put your finger on, that makes you want Andy to watch his back. He’s a compelling character with a firm code of ethics who would rather do what’s right instead of what’s legal.

 

The book is set in 1982 & reflects the culture of the time. Vietnam vets still hesitate to mention they fought & no one has heard of PTSD. Andy’s scars are invisible & he’s carefully curated a solitary existence that helps him cope with the psychological tics he brought home. He & Danny are polar opposites. They’re bound by their shared childhood history & I found myself wondering if they’d be friends if they met now. Because Danny is kind of a dick. Mind you, he has a few things on his plate. Life as a mob lawyer can be a little stressful & as his behaviour becomes more erratic you begin to question why this case matters so much.

 

I really enjoyed this. The search for Hammond has plenty of forks in the road to challenge your detective skills but it’s time with Andy that kept me reading. He’s a good man with flaws who is just trying to find his place in a world that doesn’t always make sense. He’s struggling to figure out who he is now & over the course of the story you watch as he slowly accepts that maybe you really can’t go home again.

 

The pace picks up for the last quarter as all is revealed including the darker sides of Andy’s character. It’s a case that makes him face some hard truths & I’d like to meet up with him again to see where he goes from here. If you enjoy the style of authors such as Robert B. Parker, Douglas Skelton & Malcolm Mackay, give this a shot.

  

Review
4 Stars
Broken (Nevada James #1) (Nevada James Mysteries) - Matthew Storm

Do you ever wonder why you picked up a particular book? I've been working my way through some old downloads & after a couple of disappointments, I can only assume I got sucked in by the promotional blurbs. So it was a relief to begin the next random selection & immediately be intrigued by the MC.

 

Nevada James used to be a respected homicide detective. Then she met her match, so to speak. There's a whole back story there I won't get into. Two years after her last case, she's unemployed & scraping the bottom of the barrel. Or perhaps I should say the bottle. Nevada is a devoted alcoholic who has cut all ties & would like nothing better than to go to sleep & never wake up.

 

Then she gets a rather bizarre job offer. A wealthy mobster wants her to find his missing wife & daughter. For obvious reasons he can't go to the usual authorities & he's got a suitcase full of money, if she's interested. The old Nevada would have told him exactly where to put his cash but let's face it. In her current state, it's not like she has a lot of choice & at least she could get the bill collectors off her back.

 

What follows is a gritty story with an unvarnished take on the life of a barely functional alcoholic. The investigative aspect is fast paced with a couple of nice twists. But it's the train wreck that is Nevada that holds your attention. The author pulls no punches. Descriptions of her lifestyle & the effects of her disease are unflinching & authentic. She's a mess. This could easily have been a dark & depressing read. But Nevada has just enough snark left to give you hope. She's smart, fearless & completely honest with herself & I liked her.

 

Not an easy read in places but one that kept me turning the pages.

 

 

                      

Gray Matter - Nick Pirog

I'm not going to rate this as I packed it in at about the 25% mark. The MC's dialogue consists of a steady stream of what he considers to be hilarious wisecracks. They're not, especially given his age & profession. But that would have been ok as we all have different takes on humour.

 

What did me in were comments such as describing a female detective's breasts as ripe melons & his helpful tips on how she could lose a few pounds. Add in some completely implausible actions & I'm done. I'll leave it to other more intrepid readers to find out who-dun-it. Next!

 

                      

Review
4.5 Stars
Dachshund Through the Snow - David Rosenfelt

It’s beginning to look a lot like...…em…sorry. This annual entry in the Andy Carpenter series is the only Xmas book I read. They’re always a hoot but there is a sinister downside. While reading you may catch Laurie-Carpenter-itis, an affliction that compels you to begin celebrating Xmas sometime around the end of June. Must…resist. Ok, I’m ok. Focus.

 

So it all begins with a wish. Every Xmas Laurie Carpenter (long suffering wife of I-don’t-want-to-work Andy) picks a random card from the local Wish Tree & makes someone’s dream reality. This year’s is from local boy Dany Traynor & it’s pretty straight forward. Coat for my mom, coat for Murphy (see cover model) & oh, could you find my Dad? Hmm. Now who does she know who could take care of last one?

 

She’s not the only female in Andy Carpenter’s life who wants him to get off the couch. He’s been approached by Corey, a local cop set to retire. Corey is in the K9 unit & wants his partner Simon to be released from service at the same time but the Patterson PD wants to give him to another handler. Corey & Andy have met before & it didn’t end well. But none of that matters after his beloved golden retriever Tara insists he step up & represent Simon. Case #2. Jeeze, he really needs to explain the concept of not working to the women in his life.

 

Ah, but it gets worse. Danny’s father Noah is found but instead of a happy reunion, he’s immediately arrested for a murder that occurred 14 years ago. Looks like Andy will have to dust off his best suit & head to trial.

 

The next step is to inform his team & they react in typical style. Edna is ecstatic (nope), Hike is pumped (uh uh), Sam is primed to shoot something (oh Lord) & Marcus is ready to…well, be Marcus. Basically that involves scaring the bejeezuz out of anyone dumb enough to get in the way.

 

And they’re off. While the Carpenter Machine cranks up, we meet a man named Charles Arrant in alternate chapters.  Ladies & gents, I present your bad guy. Or one of them. Because before long bullets are flying & people dropping like flies. For the love of Gladys, someone get on the batphone & call Marcus. The whole mess seems to have been triggered by Noah’s arrest but why?

 

You might think you know where this is going but Rosenfelt gets the last laugh & even pokes fun at himself in the process. Stay tuned for a little surprise at the end that heralds some interesting changes in the next instalment.

 

If you’ve read any of these books, you know what to expect. A twisty fast paced plot, a lot of laughs & plenty of puppers. For me, this series is the literary equivalent of comfort food. It’s like running into old friends & knowing you’re in for a great time. It’s pure entertainment that puts your little grey cells through their paces & I’m already primed for the next one.

 

                           

Review
3 Stars
The Chain - Adrian McKinty

Darn it. I really wanted to read this, swoon & write a glowing review. Alas, it’s not to be. I assumed it would be a sure thing as I’m a HUGE fan of the author’s other books. His Sean Duffy books remain one of my favourite all time series. And maybe that’s the problem.

 

If i’d received this book with an anonymous cover & been asked to guess the author, McKinty’s name would never have crossed my mind. This is a complete departure from anything else he’s written. The style of writing is so different & his signature wit is completely absent. The plot is original & horrifyingly creepy but it’s one of those books you really need to suspend your disbelief to enjoy & I think I lack the imagination to just shut down my logical side & go along for the ride. In this particular genre, I have to believe the characters are capable of their roles.

 

But it’s a layered work & if you’re a philosophy buff, it can be enjoyed on another level. The author clearly draws from his own scholarly background. There are references to some of the great thinkers & their theories are reflected in the main character of Rachel who is slowly redefined by her actions.

 

I recently read an interview McKinty gave to The Guardian. I was shocked to learn he & his family had been evicted from their home & he was driving for Uber to make ends meet. Just goes to show how tough the industry is when best selling authors are unable to make a living. So he’s headed off in a new direction & who can blame the guy?

 

You’ll notice I haven’t mentioned any details about the story. There’s no need. The characters are all fresh & the blurb tells you everything you need to know. So while it didn’t work for me, it’s probably just a combination of my preconceptions & simple reader/book mismatch. It’s hugely popular & there are many 5 star reviews out there so give those a look & take this one with a grain of salt. McKinty is a gifted story teller & I sincerely hope this is a screaming success so he can get back to writing full time.

 

 

        

Review
2.5 Stars
Might be time to give this series a rest
Neon Prey (Lucas Davenport #29) - John Sandford

Bit of a disappointment, I'm afraid. Although the mystery/manhunt aspect is good, the dialogue is dull & seems like we've read it all before. There's nothing new here, just a darker plot with vicious bad guys & little humour to alleviate a more violent than usual story line.

 

 

                                    

Review
3.5 Stars
Oof, a tough read at times
Cold Woods - Karen Katchur

There’s nothing like a short, creepy prologue to whet your appetite for what’s to come. One line sums it up nicely: “He had it coming”.

 

The story follows the relationships between a group of women in 2 time lines, one in the present & one from 30 years ago. It’s clear they share a huge secret stemming from traumatic events. When a body is found in present day, that past comes roaring back & forces them to remember what they’d sworn to forget. The thing is, not everyone’s memories are the same.

 

Parker Reed is a detective in Northampton County, Pennsylvania. After the fallout from his last case, he’s in the department dog house. So when a human skull is found near the Appalachian Trail, he’s the lucky guy assigned to freeze his butt off while forensic crews do their stuff. At least it gives him a chance to bond with new partner Geena Brassard. In some ways she’s the department’s other outcast. Her crimes? Too smart & too attractive. *sigh* The nerve of some women.

 

It’s a sparsely populated area where everyone knows your business. So it’s not long before they identify the remains. Lester Haines was a surly drunk who disappeared 30 years ago. Public opinion was he simply walked away from his wife & stepdaughter. Apparently it was a short walk.

 

Three decades ago Trisha Haines left town in a hurry. That’s no surprise in itself. It’s one of those places you either never leave or never come back to. She cut all ties with her mother & friends Danni & Carlyn. Now she has no choice but to return. Danni’s mother has died & a funeral is the perfect opportunity to remind her old friends to keep their mouths shut about the body.

 

That’s it, no more yakking about the plot. Best to let you draw your own conclusions as both time lines unfold. I loved the historical side of the story. Trisha, Danni & Carlyn are typical teens dealing with all the usual issues brought on by high school drama & raging hormones. Two of them live with single moms. Danni’s mother has given up & never leaves the house & Carlyn’s works the night shift, leaving her to raise herself.

 

Only Trisha has a father figure in her life. Her real dad left when she was a baby & her mother soon remarried. Sadly, she’s an alcoholic who is unaware of what’s happening in her own home. Which brings us to Lester. Drunk, despicable Lester. Most of this side of the story is alluded to, leaving the reader to imagine the worst. But the effect on those involved is very well portrayed.

 

As we follow the 3 families through these years. I was struck by a couple of things. First, with the exception of Parker, few men in this story come off very well. Second, the women are a wonder. Each of them suffers with poverty & abuse or abandonment. But there’s a resilience, the ability to make do with the hand they’re dealt & support each other as best they can. There’s an ominous undertone that builds as these chapters progress. We know Lester is going to meet his maker. The question is who & how.

 

The present day time line also has an edge but most comes from a separate subplot. I fared less well with this side of the story. Meeting all the characters decades later reveals some long held secrets as they deal with the police. But there’s a middle section where the story, like the investigation, slows down & not much happens. At one point we get some info about Trisha’s real father & how he shaped her current life but I wanted more detail as it had huge significance (trying not to give too much away here).

 

As they reach for the end, both story lines will have you guessing. Some of mine were spot on, some weren’t even in the same time zone. But when it’s all said & done you might find yourself thinking back to that line from the prologue & agreeing.

 

 

      

Review
4.5 Stars
Our Little Secrets - peter ritchie

I’m ashamed to say I’ve not read any of this author’s previous books, something I’ll be rectifying PDQ. Luckily it wasn’t an issue. Although this is part of the Grace Macallan series, she plays a very minor role as Ritchie switches the focus to another group of characters. And what a bunch they are. My recurring thought while reading this was good Lord, these people deserve each other.

 

This dark, addictive tale is a cops vs gangsters story set in Edinburgh. I can’t even describe it as good guys vs. bad as there’s little moral ground between the 2 sides. It all begins when an ambitious detective schemes to acquire criminal informants in her quest for promotion. DI Janet Hadden already has an impressive clearance rate but has been passed over because of her social skills. As in lack thereof. That’s fine. She’ll just employ some of her other talents to get what she wants.

 

Her target is Dominic Grainger, the eldest of 3 brothers who run a criminal empire. He’s a brash, confidant guy who looks more like a businessman than a gangster. Keeping his 2 younger brothers in check is a constant challenge. But he has 2 other more pressing problems.

 

The first is his wife. They’re the poster couple for the old adage “marry in haste, repent at leisure”. Divorce is an option but she’ll take him for everything right down to the contents of his sock drawer. Which might be all she gets if he can’t solve problem #2. Dominic is a gambler. Unfortunately he’s not very lucky & if his brothers ever find out how much of their money is missing….well, brotherly love has it’s limits.

 

They are the 2 MC’s but there’s a large peripheral cast that are very well developed. Stand outs include Davy McGill, a young low level drug dealer who’s never caught a break in his life & Frankie Mason, a grungy but resourceful PI who gets caught up in the whole mess.

 

The plot is impossible to summarize. It’s incredibly complex but due to the author’s story telling abilities, you never feel lost. Instead you become completely immersed in the characters’ machinations, bracing yourself for the next hit. I can think of only a handful who have any redeeming qualities. As for the rest, their scheming & subterfuge would reduce Machiavelli to tears.

 

If noir & hard boiled fiction had a conjugal visit, this would be the result. Following Hadden & Grainger is like watching 2 speeding trains heading straight at each other…..you fear what will happen but you can’t look away. If you’re a fan of cozies and/or HEA, move along. Nothing to see here. But for those who love the dark, gritty stuff of authors such as Ken Bruen, Malcolm Mackay or Stuart Neville’s “Ghosts of Belfast”, you just found your next great read.

 

Two thumbs up to GR buddy Col who put this book on my radar. I owe you one.

 

 

                 

 

 

I Have Sinned - Caimh McDonnell

Ah, jeeze....where to begin. If you've read this author before (and if you haven't, what?!) you know what I mean. Although loosely labeled as crime fiction, his books defy genre. They're a wild mix of suspense & humour with some of the most original characters you'll meet & this one follows suit. Trust me, "mayhem" doesn't even begin to describe it.

If you live in the States, be very afraid. Bunny McGarry has landed. He's supposed to be searching for the only woman he ever loved & needs to locate a group of nuns but keeps getting distracted. He ends up in Cooperstown, a suburb that makes the Bronx look like the Hamptons. Pretty soon he's involved with an odd priest & some disadvantaged kids who will break your heart. 

But don't worry, you'll spend most of your time laughing & wondering about the author's sanity. The story heads off in a dozen directions but somehow makes sense. Just know it's a great read where you'll run into a deranged Irishman, spooky nuns, a cabbie with anger management issues & (*WARNING*) clowns. 

As a bonus, it's also educational as I've expanded my vocabulary of Irish swear words. And I must find out what a lilo is so I can use it properly. It's a smart, entertaining read & I can't wait to see where Bunny crash-lands next.

 

 

     

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