Escape from the ER
Review
4 Stars
The Last Widow (Will Trent #9) - Karin Slaughter

I’ll begin by offering a bit of advice. Don’t open this with the idea of just getting a few chapters under your belt. Prepare. Find a quiet spot, break out the emergency reading kit (snacks, beverages, blankie, heart rate monitor, etc.) & get comfortable. Because this author doesn’t so much gently lead you into the story as throw you off a speeding train. In the ebook version we have our first kidnapping at 2%. Then she shows some restraint, holding off til 8% for the second one. At this point you might start digging around for a seatbelt.

 

Dr. Michelle Spivey was enjoying an outing with her daughter. When a van suddenly pulls up beside them, her first thought is for her little girl. She needn’t have worried. It’s Michelle they want.  One month later, Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent Will Trent & his girlfriend Dr. Sara Linton are spending time with her family when they hear 2 explosions. It’s coming from the Emory Campus & as they attempt to get to the scene, they’re waylaid by a road accident. In the blink of an eye Will is badly beaten & Sara is gone (tip: good time for snack/drink/heart rate check #1).

 

What follows is a gripping story told by 2 main narrators. In Will’s chapters we follow him & various levels of law enforcement as they try to find Sara & figure out what the hell is going on. His boss Amanda is as cagey & acerbic as ever as she directs the search while sparring with the FBI. Colleague Faith is in the thick of it, running down leads & providing some much needed comic relief.

 

In alternate chapters, we’re with Sara. Here we learn exactly what a secretive group are up to & why she & Michelle were selected. What they endure, witness & hear makes for a disturbing read at times but one that keeps you glued to the pages. Ms. Slaughter has a tendency to punt you out of your comfort zone but for me, the most unsettling parts were those that reflected the sad truths of real current events. The premise is frighteningly plausible & clearly she’s done her homework.

 

There is some minor repetition of scenes that seemed unnecessary but that’s nitpicking. Initially you’re swept up by the pace & need to know how all these players fit in. Then there’s a dawning sense of dread as it becomes clear what the bad guys’ agenda is.

 

To the squillion or so Will Trent fans out there, you can rejoice. It’s been a long wait for this instalment & it doesn’t disappoint. Although it can be enjoyed as a stand alone, there is a boat load of history among these characters that adds depth to the present situation & it was a pleasure to catch up with them. The ending leaves the door open for a book #10 & we can only hope it's in the works. Maybe use the time to deep breathe & replenish your reading kit.

 

 

                              

Review
4.5 Stars
The Chestnut Man - Søren Sveistrup

I was a big fan of “The Killing” so when I heard about this book, onto the wish list it went. Did it live up to my expectations? You betcha. This Scandi crime/police procedural comes loaded with all the elements that will keep you reading into the wee hours. Two compelling MC’s, an intricate plot & a sinister bad guy…it ticks all the boxes. Set in Copenhagen, it’s the story of a current investigation with deep ties to the past delivered with a stealthy & rising sense of menace.

 

The first MC is Naia Thulin. She’s a young cop who is slowly dying of boredom as the newest member of the Major Crimes Division. Despite her intelligence & tech skills, she’s being wasted on the small stuff. Naia decides to ask for a transfer to Cyber Crimes but her boss has one last job for her. It seems they’ve been saddled with a Europol agent who was demoted back to Copenhagen. Her job is to babysit for a few days until he’s up to speed.

 

Mark Hess spent the last 5 years living a nomadic life with Europol. But a disagreement with higher-ups resulted in him being sent back to his old stomping grounds. He’s been paired with Thulin, a rather intense young woman, but making new friends is not a priority. Copenhagen holds too many bad memories & his sole focus is getting his job back. Then a body is found.

 

In alternate chapters we meet Rosa Hartung. She’s the government minister for social services who is returning to work after compassionate leave. A year ago her daughter Kristine disappeared & has never been found. The tragedy left it’s mark on her family & she needs to get back to some kind of normal.

 

Thulin & Hess take the call about a body & arrive to find a young nurse who’s been murdered. The area is carefully picked over but no leads are forthcoming. Until they get an odd call from the forensic crew. One of the items taken from the scene was a funny little doll made from chestnuts & matchsticks. A fingerprint was found on it & they have a match…..Kristina Hartung.

 

I’ll leave it at that for the plot. Suffice to say there are more bodies, each accompanied by a chestnut man. The book opens with a ominous prologue from 1989 so you know there’s more going on here than just the crimes in the present.

 

This is a great read for several reasons but two things stood out for me. First, don’t expect to be spoon fed. We learn things right along with the MC’s & I enjoyed being a third partner in the investigation. Some clever misdirection means you have more than one candidate for the killer & it keeps you guessing as a good thriller should.

 

Second, I really liked Thulin & Hess. These 2 characters are the heart & soul of the story. They have very different styles & it was interesting to watch them go from barely speaking to appreciating what the other brought to the table. Both are smart & capable of the intuitive thinking that puts it all together. The author purposely gives only sparse details about their pasts & you get the feeling there is so much more to learn about them. Maybe in book 2? (hint, hint)

 

So many procedurals rely on a character’s dumb decision to move the story along & it was a pleasure to read one that didn’t stoop to using this device. With a clever plot & intelligent characters, there was no need. As for the ending, just when you think you’ve made it safely to the other side….well, that would be telling. My reaction? “Oh, crap”.

 

A big bowl of shiny chestnuts to translator Caroline Waight. She does a stellar job of providing a seamless translation while maintaining a Scandinavian vibe that gives the book a real sense of place.

 

 

                                    

Review
4 Stars
Bark of Night - David Rosenfelt

If you’ve read any of this series then you’re familiar with Andy Carpenter, the wisecracking MC. He’s been trying to quit practicing law pretty much since he took the bar exam & it’s not going well. It’s just that those pesky clients keep showing up at his door. Luckily for us, it looks like his retirement plans have been foiled again.

 

When he takes beloved dog Tara for a visit to the vet, somehow he ends up leaving with a new client. He’s a little French guy named Truman & he’s a good boy, yes he is. He’s also an orphan after his human was recently murdered.

 

Through bizarre circumstances, Truman ended up being brought in for euthanasia & if there’s one thing Andy hates more than working it’s someone throwing away a perfectly good pupper. He begins looking into the owner’s death & before he knows it, he’s representing a 20 year old local man charged with murder. Now he just has to break the news to his team. All the usual cast is back & respond in typical fashion. Sam is elated, Edna is horrified & Hike believes they’re doomed. As for Marcus…well, who knows what he thinks. Probably something scary. 

 

Truman’s owner was a guy named James Haley.  He made his living shooting documentaries on various subjects. No one is sure just why he was in Paterson, New Jersy but odds are good he filmed something he shouldn’t have & it’s made a bunch of of seriously bad guys very nervous. In alternate chapters we spend time with these paragons of society & gradually learn what they’re up to. Needless to say, it’s not good. In fact it’s a plan that has repercussions for communities right across the country & before long, bodies are popping up all over. Andy & his crew will need the help of law enforcement on all levels if they’re to survive long enough to clear their client.

 

This series has become an annual delight for me. If you haven’t picked up any of these books, stop reading immediately & get thee to a bookstore. There’s a reason the series has made it to #19. This outing has everything required for a fast paced, entertaining  read….great cast of characters, twisty suspense, plenty of dogs & a guy named Fat Tony. Can’t ask for more than that.

 

Unless you need a picture of a Frenchie eating watermelon...

 

             

               

 

Review
3 Stars
The Cleanest Kill (Detective Jack Murphy #8) - Rick  Reed

Awkward: (def.) when you’re a cop tasked with investigating your incoming chief of police for murder.

 

This is Detective Jack Murphy’s reality. Thirty-seven years ago, a high school student named Max Day was killed in a cemetery. Among those questioned at the time was Richard Dick, Max’ classmate & sworn enemy. The investigation was led by Richard’s father who was chief at the time & eventually it was shelved.

 

Jack & partner Liddell Blanchard make up the murder squad in Evansville, Indiana. There’s a new mayor ready to be sworn in & she wants to replace current chief Marlon Pope. Richard is her choice but Max’ remaining family have always maintained his father covered up his involvement. So Jack & Liddell are given their marching orders. Reopen the cold case & clear Richard for the top job.

 

They’ve barely begun when Max’s sister Reina is attacked in the same cemetery where he died. Evansville is one of those places where memories are long & everyone knows your business. The problem is getting people to talk & the investigation is not winning them many friends around the office either. Then tragedy strikes & they have a fresh body on their hands.

 

In alternate chapters, we spend time with Richard (known as “Double Dick” around the station) as he tries to quell rumours & mitigate the fallout from the investigation. He’s a pompous ass who’s butted heads with Jack for years & is determined nothing will prevent him from following in his father’s footsteps.

 

I love procedurals that include cold cases. There’s something appealing about an old mystery finally being solved so I really enjoyed this aspect of the story. It’s a complex & genuine head scratcher as we gradually find out who-dun-what & how it will all play out.

 

However….as I read, I began to ponder that age old question: how many “dick” jokes are too many? (Discuss amongst yourselves while I give you my take.)  I realize the Richard’s name was chosen for this ongoing gag but it tested my patience, especially in terms of Liddell. He & Jack are 2 experienced detectives staring down a tense investigation that is tearing the town apart. And Liddell’s contribution largely consists of jumping on every opportunity to make a dick joke. Instead of picturing them based on the physical descriptions provided, over time they began to remind me of Beavis & Butt-head (heh heh heh…) IMHO, 2 or 3 times would be enough for readers to share a cheeky grin. After that, it’s just tired.

 

Which led to an odd situation. I actually preferred the 2 MC’s when they were separated & engaged with other characters. There’s a diverse cast & a couple of standouts for me were departing Chief Marlon Pope & the remarkable Amelia Day, Max’ mother. We also become familiar with our MC’s backgrounds & personal lives.

 

I must confess I haven’t read the other books in this series so don’t know if the author’s style of humour is a staple.  The cold case element makes for a great story so if you’ve read & enjoyed previous outings this should be right up your alley.

 

 

               

Review
4.5 Stars
Say Nothing - Patrick Radden Keefe

I don't read a lot of non-fiction but picked this up after a trip to Northern Ireland & the Republic left me fascinated by the country & its people. 


Absolutely riveting. The author personalizes the Troubles by following a handful of individuals who were in the thick of it. Their stories are gripping & sad, poignantly reflecting the effects of decades of war. It's exhaustively researched (as evidenced by 60 pages of notes & a 5 page bibliography at the end) & clearly lays out the history from early 1900's to present day. Written in an unbiased & eminently readable style, Keefe presents all sides whenever possible & leaves assumptions to others. Highly recommend.

 

 

   

 

 

Review
4 Stars
The Mausoleum - David Mark

I finished this a while ago & have been mulling over how I felt about it. And I realized the longer I thought, the more I appreciated the story & how it was told. If (like me) you’re a fan of the author’s Aector McAvoy series, the first thing you need to know is this is a huge departure. Don’t go in expecting thrills & chills. This is a dense & detailed historical read that takes its time.

 

It begins in the present as 2 elderly women sit vigil at the bedside of a dying man. We have no idea who the characters are but it’s obvious they have a long & complex history. We then go back to how it all began.

 

Cordelia (Cordie) is an educated woman whose husband has sent her to live in the country. She’s a fish out of water & initially dismissive of her rural neighbours. Felicity (Flick) is a wife & mother who has lived in the area all her life. They first meet in a graveyard & when lightening strikes an old mausoleum, they’re horrified to see a body come tumbling out. An ancient skeleton perhaps? Nope. There’s flesh on those bones & the snazzy suit suggests the wearer is of a more recent vintage.

 

What follows is the story of Cordie & Flick’s great adventure. On one level it’s a murder mystery with disturbing undertones & a slow rising tension. But it’s also the story of these 2 women & how their investigation & relationship permanently alters their lives.

 

Most of the book is set in a rural Scottish village in the 1960’s but it feels at least a decade earlier. The pace, descriptions of village life & frequent allusions to the war all combine to create a story that’s more in keeping with the era of golden age mysteries.

 

To be honest, it took me a while to settle in with this one. I think I went in with certain expectations based on Mark’s previous books. Setting the stage takes the first half. Not much happens but you become immersed in the lives of the characters & history of the area. It’s heavy on dialogue which the author delivers using local vernacular to great effect.  More than anything else, that’s what helped me find the book’s rhythm & just sit back & let Cordie & Flick tell me their story.

 

The pace picks up for the last 20% as we begin to glimpse the big picture. War atrocities, secrets & lies with startling local connections are exposed. The village is shaken & for Cordie in particular, it’s the beginning of a new life.

 

After pondering it a bit, I realized what I enjoyed most was the relationship between the 2 women. It gradually evolves as they rub off on each other, both deeply affected by their shared experience. There’s a subtle power shift as they learn to appreciate their differences & the result is a long friendship based on mutual acceptance, trust & affection.

 

So from an initial rating of 3.5, I’m bumping it up to 4 stars. There’s a beautiful simplicity to the prose that makes the setting & characters come across as completely authentic. Kudos to the author for branching off in a new direction.

Review
4 Stars
Some Choose Darkness - Charlie Donlea

I have a huge soft spot for characters who are a little different. In a sea of stereotypes it’s the ones that don’t fit in who are more interesting. In this gripping story we’re introduced to Rory Moore, an MC who stands out from the crowd for several reasons.

 

Rory is a forensic reconstructionist. Occasionally she works on cold cases for the Chicago PD under the supervision of Det. Ron Davidson. Her specialty is recreating a crime scene in such minute detail that often new information is revealed. It’s a gift & her uncanny abilities are a direct result of her being somewhere on the autism spectrum.

 

Ron has just dropped another case in her lap when Rory gets the news her father has died. It’s a terrible blow made more difficult when she takes on the job of closing his law practice. She discovers he’s been representing an infamous convicted killer since 1979. That was the year 5 women went missing courtesy of a man nicknamed “The Thief”. Despite a massive search, police were only able to nail him for one. Her name was Angela Mitchell & she was credited with identifying him. After numerous applications made by Rory’s father, it looks like he’s finally been granted parole & the job of guiding him through the process falls to Rory.

 

There are dual time lines & in alternate chapters we follow Angela in 1979. She, too, is a little different. Intelligent but socially awkward, Angela deals with the daily challenge of appearing “normal”. With the help of a supportive husband, she just about manages to keep a lid on the personal tics that can take over her life. That summer, everyone is talking about “The Thief”. She is soon obsessed with following the investigation & begins to see patterns others miss. Eventually, she’s sure she knows who the killer is. Then Angela becomes missing woman #6.

 

That’s it from me about the plot. The less you know going in, the better & I don’t want to deprive you of one “Holy Crap!” moment. Just get used to saying it because you will. A lot. Given the subject matter, much of the prose is surprisingly low key. You have a chance to get to know Rory & Angela before events begin to spin out of control in both time lines. In terms of the big picture, it’s like little puzzle pieces are littered throughout the story. Some I picked up, others I completely missed. The overall plot is intricate & as that picture emerges, it becomes a tense & compulsive read. I should mention we also get chapters narrated by the killer, a man who had me praying to the Gods of Karma that he’d get what he so richly deserved.

 

The author does a good job of portraying how times have changed (somewhat) for people living with degrees of autism. Rory is accepted by those she allows in her life & appreciated for her abilities. Angela has to deal with patronizing smiles & labels such as “slow” or “retarded”. It’s not overplayed, just presented as a fact of life for both women.

 

I’ve heard other readers say they were disappointed by the finale but I thought it was perfect & very much in keeping with the characters involved. The author knows how to spin a story that keeps you reading & has created a compelling MC. If there’s a Rory 2.0 in the works, sign me up.

 

 

          

 

Review
3.5 Stars
If She Wakes - Michael Koryta

I was a big fan of this author’s Lincoln Perry series but it’s been a while so I was happy to get my hands on his latest stand alone. For me this was very much a book of 2 halves. I see you squinting at me so I’ll try to explain but first, the 411.

 

Nineteen minutes before her brain and body parted ways, Tara Beckley’s concern was the cold.”

 

Got your attention? That’s the opening line & you may wonder if it might be a good idea not to get too attached to poor Tara. No worries. After a car crash, she’s still alive albeit trapped in her own body with locked in syndrome. Her passenger, a professor she was driving to a conference, didn’t fare as well.

 

Meanwhile a woman named Lisa Boone is wondering what happened to her latest client. She’s in the Detroit airport waiting for a professor who had one more lecture to give before she whisks him away. All she can do is ponder his last text: ASK THE GIRL.

 

As Tara lies in a coma, family gathers at her bedside to consider the options.  It’s probably a good thing they don’t know she’s listening as they discuss when to turn off the machines & let her go. Luckily she has someone in her corner. Her sister Shannon has always had her back & refuses to believe Tara is already gone.

 

Then we meet Abby Kaplan, a claims investigator hired by Tara’s college to look into the accident. They sponsored the conference & want to nail down any potential legal liability stemming from the professor’s death. Fatal accidents are something Abby knows a bit about. She recently returned to Maine after surviving a crash that killed her boyfriend. It’s obvious Abby is still traumatized but she needs this job. So maybe she’ll have a couple of drinks before tackling the crime scene.

 

There’s a lot of history & more characters to introduce before the story can really take off. This is what I meant in the intro. The first half sets up various sub plots & establishes the cast but you soon realize Tara & Abby will be the main narrators. I enjoyed Tara’s side. Making one of your MC’s a person who never leaves her bed is an interesting choice. I fared less well with Abby. First, I have a thing about drinking & driving. That’s just a personal tic. But it was mostly the frequent references to the accident in California that sent her running back to Maine.

 

Her boyfriend was a well known actor so in addition to her personal grief, Abby had to deal with being excoriated in the press. It’s a horrific experience that would leave anyone reeling & we better understand her behaviour after the initial reveal. However, she (and the reader) delves into it over & over again including long passages of conversations she had with her boyfriend. Not only does it slow the pace & yank you out of the present, it doesn’t add anything to the story. We already know she’s suffering & I confess I found myself skimming these sections to get back to the current situation which was much more compelling.

 

Thankfully, this happens less often in the second half. The plot is intricate & things really get interesting when we spend time with a creepy young killer hell bent on making sure no one digs into the circumstances around Tara’s accident. It becomes a fast paced read with several nice twists that keep you turning the pages.

 

So with 3 stars for the first half & 4 for the second, I’ll split the difference.

 

 

        

Review
4.5 Stars
Turning Secrets - Brenda Chapman

Favourite thing # 9: when you’re wrapped up in a book you can’t put down but you’re afraid to read the next page. Love that. And it pretty much sums up how I spent the last quarter of the latest instalment in the Stonechild & Rouleau series.

 

It all begins with the death of Nadia Armstrong. When her body is found at a construction site, it appears to be suicide. But Kala Stonechild from the KIngston PD has one of those niggly feelings she’s learned to trust. She & colleague Paul Gundersund begin to dig into the young woman’s life, unaware they’re lifting the lid off a huge can of worms *.

 

( * my apologies to worms everywhere….you’re lovely little things compared to some of the bottom feeders in this story)

 

It seems Nadia had a few secrets. And she’s not alone. Kala’s niece Dawn has struck up a relationship with Fisher, her long absent father.  She knows how her aunt feels about the ex-con so she keeps it to herself, unaware that Fisher has secrets too.

 

But the gold medal for keeping shtum has to go to Vanessa, one of Dawn’s school mates. Her private life is truly the stuff of nightmares & unfortunately, it’s only a matter of time before Dawn will be dragged into the whole mess.

 

Add in some internal strife at the police station & you’ve got a great, twisty read full of intrigue & suspense. Faithful fans in particular are in for a few surprises as there are some shifts in relationships among the returning cast. These characters have been so well developed over the course of the series that they’ve become “real” people. So it was no surprise I still cheered on my favourites while booing those I’ve come to loathe (side-eyes Fiona). But I was caught off guard by events surrounding 2 of the regular characters. Seems I may have to rethink one & say good-bye to another.

 

Some crimes have motives as old as time & shine a light on societal views & biases. Others are more topical, fueled by current issues surrounding social media. It can be a wonderful tool but sadly it can also be used to manipulate the vulnerable & one of the story lines feels all too real.

 

The author does a great job of keeping all the plot lines moving which results in a pacy read that holds your attention. Along the way there are some sly red herrings in the form of suitably creepy candidates for ”bad guy”. By the end, it’s clear there are some changes in store for Jacques, Kala & their colleagues down at that station. Can’t wait for book #7.

 

 

                

Review
4.5 Stars
City of Windows - Robert Pobi

Ok thriller lovers, listen up. There’s a lot of buzz around this book & I’m here to say you can believe it.  This is a cracking read that delivers. Tense action, intricate plot lines, a frighteningly efficient killer & suspense that builds to a hair raising finish. It may sound like a stock recipe for any thriller but the reason this one succeeds so well is down to two things…..how the author blends those ingredients then tosses in a compelling & charismatic MC.

 

Dr. Lucas Page is a brilliant man with a unique ability. Once upon a time he was an FBI agent with a partner named Doug Hartke. That was before “the event” that ended his career & resulted in him losing a leg, an arm & one eye. Now he’s a mix of man & metal who spends his days teaching at Columbia University. The rest of his time is devoted to wife Erin & the 5 kids they foster. Until NYC Special Agent Brett Kehoe comes knocking.

 

Hartke is dead. He was sitting in downtown traffic when killed by a sniper. Kehoe needs Lucas’ brain & is willing to play the guilt card to get it. No one “sees” like  Lucas. HIs gift is the ability to shut out the noise & reduce his surroundings to a series of vectors, angles & numbers to pinpoint where a shot originated. But when he visits the crime scene it becomes clear they’re not dealing with your garden variety sniper. The shot came from a distant roof top & should have been impossible.

 

As far as Lucas is concerned, it’s a one & done job. He’s well aware Erin is less than thrilled about him working with the FBI again & besides, he promised to devote the Xmas season to their herd of kids. Then another member of law enforcement is taken out in similar fashion. More will follow, each shot more unbelievable than the last. Lucas helps out but resists an official return to service until his family is targeted. Now it’s personal.

 

Holy Cats, buckle up people. This one will keep you on your toes. What follows is a riveting tale of the hunt for a highly skilled killer. Lucas & his colleagues must dig deep to discover motives & connections. There is a large & diverse cast of characters that add colour, humour & drama to the story. One standout is Whitaker, the agent assigned to Lucas. She’s a whip smart woman whose quiet demeanour masks a spine of steel. Good thing because while she may find Lucas’ abilities fascinating she’s less enamoured with his complete lack of social skills. Watching their relationship develop was one of the things I enjoyed most about this book.

 

But everything revolves around Lucas & he’s up for carrying the story. At work he’s terse, impatient & antisocial, sometimes with unintentionally humorous results. At home we get to see his softer side & through a series of childhood flashbacks we come to understand why he & Erin have created their unique family. It turns out he was once just like them, unwanted & moved around at the whim of social services. Another thing that is very well done are descriptions of his prosthetics & how they affect daily life.

 

It’s a great example of what sets this book apart from other thrillers. Yes, there’s plenty of action but it’s the personal details & characters’ histories that add the human element necessary for a reader to become truly invested. I ripped through this in a day & sincerely hope it’s not the last we’ve heard from Dr. Lucas Page. Recommended for fans of Daniel Cole or Jeffery Deaver’s Lincoln Rhyme series.

 

 

         

Review
4.5 Stars
Joe Country - Mick Herron

Uh…good evening, officer. What? the neighbours heard screaming? Oh sorry, see I just got my hands on the latest Mick Herron. My bad.

 

C’mon, I can’t be the only one celebrating.This is one of my all time favourite series, an annual no-brainer purchase. Last year Herron gave us a shortie called The Drop & that story line plus a couple of the characters are woven into this outing.

 

It all begins with a prologue that will have fans on edge. There are bodies in a barn in Wales. And rumour has it some agents from Slough House were involved. Hold that thought. You’re about to find out how some Slow Horses ended up dashing through the snow in the Welsh countryside.

 

As usual there are multiple story lines on the go. River Cartwright is finally burying his grandfather. The old spook’s funeral is a solemn & covert affair. Right up until….well, let me just point out Jackson Lamb & his crew are in attendance. Did you really expect normal?

 

Louisa Guy is still mourning the death of fellow agent Min Harper. They had a relationship of sorts so when Min’s widow gets in touch to request they meet, Louisa’s not sure it’s a good idea. It seems their teenage son Lucas is missing & Min’s wife thinks the least Louisa can do is find him. Eventually she agrees & uses her contacts to track him to…Wales?

 

Meanwhile over in Regents Part, Diana Taverner has a problem. Hannah Weiss is a double agent who infiltrated the German intelligence service for MI6. Not so long ago, things got a little messy & Lady Di cleaned up by “promoting” Lech Wicinski, a low level agent who got stuck in the middle. Yep, he now reports to Jackson Lamb. Even worse, he shares an office with Roddy Ho. Yeesh, talk about kicking someone when they’re down. All Lech can do is find those responsible for his spectacular fall from grace.

 

As for Lamb, he’d have been happy to continue spending his days devising new ways to offend his merry band of misfits. But events at the funeral put that on hold. He’s finally got a chance for revenge on an old foe & some off-the-books digging reveals his prey is in….Wales? Huh. Must be getting a bit crowded over there.

 

Once again I tried to slowly dole out the chapters & once again I failed. For me, these books are like potato chips. It’s impossible to have a little taste then put them away. After the prologue, this one slows down as the author sets the stage for everything to come. I love the way he makes Slough House another living, breathing character that quietly observes the poor souls who trudge through its door every day. There are many strands to the plot & he keeps them running smoothly until they inevitably intersect. Along the way you’re treated to action, intrigue, twists & laughs. No one does dry black humour quite like Herron & I’ve learned my lesson about reading his books in public. But on the upside, it turns out snorting & grinning like a loon ensures you get a seat to yourself on the train.

 

Beneath the humour & zany antics are serious moments of grief & loss. This is an author who doesn’t shy away from killing off a beloved character & the tradition continues here. The ending makes it clear there’s a conspiracy in the works, one even Lamb may not survive. And so the wait for the next one begins & I swear I’ll read it slowly (sure).

 

 

                  

Review
4.5 Stars
An Accidental Death - Peter Grainger

So once again I'm asking myself....how have I missed this series?! Instead of being fashionably late to the party, apparently I've shown up after everyone ate, drank, danced, got arrested & made bail. 

This is a wonderful read, a straight up procedural full of well developed characters that grow on you with each passing page. The MC is D.C. Smith, a seasoned detective in Kings Lake, Norfolk. He's a widower who can't imagine not being on the job despite some not so subtle hints to retire. After a recent department scandal, he's handed low level cases....like signing off on the accidental drowning of a local teen. 

I won't get into the investigation. Obviously there's more there than meets the eye or we wouldn't have a story. 'Nuff to say it's well plotted with some interesting historical ties. What makes this so readable is the cast. Smith is an engaging character. He's deceptively low key, a smart mild mannered guy who misses nothing. Instead of the usual personal demons ubiquitous in the genre, his only baggage is a quiet grief following the recent loss of his beloved wife. But it's his dry sense of humour that elevates the story & makes dialogue sparkle. Other characters of note include Smith's superior officer DCI Reeve & DC Waters, a shiny new recruit with much to learn. 

This is a good example of all you need for a compelling read. No flash, no OTT drama....just well developed characters & great story telling. There's already a squillion reviews for this little gem on Goodreads so I'll end by saying if you're a fan of police procedurals, don't be a Sandy-come-lately. Read it.

 

 

     

Review
3.5 Stars
The Island (Hidden Iceland #2) - Ragnar Jónasson

This series has an interesting format in that it’s written in reverse order. Book #1 (The Darkness) gave us Detective Inspector Hulda Hermannsdóttir at the end of her career with the Reykjavík police. In this outing we go back a bit to 1997 as she investigates a suspicious death on the island of Elliðaey.

 

Ten years ago, Dagur’s family was ripped apart when his sister was murdered in a rural cabin. (Thanks to a brief prologue we know what happened…sort of.) They used to hang with Benni, Alexandra & Klara, 3 other school mates who have since become estranged. So when Benni gets in touch it’s a bit of a surprise. He want to get the gang together & spend the weekend on an island to honour the anniversary of the death. Hmmm….remote island, just the four of them, no way to leave. Sure, sounds good.

 

It’s not long before Reykjavík police get a call. Seems a young woman has fallen to her death on Elliðaey. Hulda has been going through a tough spell & jumps at the chance to leave the city behind. Her subsequent interviews with the remaining friends only lead to more questions & the sneaking suspicion she’s not getting the whole story from any of them.

 

This is not a flashy fast paced thriller. It’s a quiet, reflective mystery that is almost more about the characters than the crimes. Not to say there aren’t any twists in the plot because there are. Secrets from the past & present are revealed. But it’s the background & relationships of these people that form the bulk of the story & help us understand how they ended up where they are.

 

At the centre of it all is Hulda. Her mother recently died & the death of the young woman has reminded her of the loss of her own daughter 10 years ago. She’s never known who her father was other than he was an American GI stationed in Reykjavík during the war. One side story deals with her search for him & I really enjoyed this part. You desperately want her to find some happiness in her small, colourless life.

 

I love it when a book opens with a creepy prologue. It’s always tucked in the back of my mind as I read, keeping an eye out for how/who it’s related to in the story. Here we get 2 that occur in the late 1980’s & you’ll have to pay attention as there are shifting time lines. Because of the pace & content, this one didn’t grab me as much as The Darkness. But I do enjoy spending time with Hulda. Books that feature a mature female detective are rare. Her life experience & dedication give her a different take on events & enable her to think outside the box (unlike Lýdur, her lazy pompous boss).

 

This hushed, atmospheric read perfectly mirrors the Icelandic landscape & serves as a reminder that wherever you go, your past travels with you. 

 

 

 

Review
3.5 Stars
Sins of the Dead (Rhona MacLeod #13) - Lin Anderson

So today’s post is kind of a doubleheader. First up is my review then I’ll close with a short rant which may stray close to spoilerish territory so just a heads up.

 

When forensic scientist Rhona MacLeod gets called, it’s rarely good news. This time a body has been found in one of Glasgow’s tunnels. And it’s immediately clear the killer has gone to great lengths to get their message across. The second body turns up near Rhona’s home.  Same careful display, same props, same lack of forensics……there’s no doubt it’s related to the first.

 

Rhona does her best to provide clues for the police but it’s slim pickings. And maybe that’s a clue in itself. Everything points to someone with superior forensic knowledge. When one clue is tied to Rhona they all have to wonder. Is the killer taunting her or stalking her?

 

The gang is all back including DS Michael McNab. He & Rhona have a complicated history. They fell out after their last case which also resulted in a demotion for McNab. He’s been trying to keep his head down but when this case is assigned to DS Janice Clark, he can’t resist pushing his way into the investigation.

 

Just to amp up the creep factor, in alternate chapters we listen in as the killer makes their plans. There are also side stories dealing with the personal lives of the MC’s. The author does a great job of keeping you guessing. When it comes to suspects, you’re spoiled for choice. I had it narrowed down to three & kept looking for any hint that would sway me one way or the other.

 

One little niggle was a lack of information about the killer. Even after they’re revealed, we’re no wiser as to their background, motive or why they became fixated on Rhona. But that wasn’t the issue for me. Warning: mini-rant ahead.

 

I was all in on this story. Loved the Glasgow setting & got swept up in the investigation & the characters’ personal story lines. Then I hit the 90% mark. At this point Rhona makes a decision that can only be described as monumentally boneheaded. It brought to mind those slasher movies where a frisky couple looking for privacy come across an abandoned house. It’s usually isolated, has no electricity & one pipes up with something akin to “Hey, I’m going inside to check out that noise in the cellar by myself. You wait out here all alone in the dark. No worries, I’m sure it’s nothing to do with that serial killer who recently escaped.” Yup, that.

 

I realize authors take license to create suspense. My problem is when a character who has been portrayed as smart & experienced is dumbed down in order to create that suspense. It’s a personal peeve that yanks me out of the story & leaves me shaking my head. Maybe I lack the ability to suspend my disbelief that far but surely there are other ways to create the desired tension that allow the character to remain consistent. So that’s where my rating took a hit.

 

There you have it. The bulk of the story is a well paced, twisty tale that will keep you turning the pages. As a bonus, you also get a peek at the hidden history of Glasgow. If the above doesn’t bother you, go for it as there’s a reason this popular series has reached book #13.

 

 

         

Review
4 Stars
Among the Shadows - Bruce Robert Coffin

Another mini-review as I attempt to help my kindle lose weight in time for bikini season....

 

Well, well, well....a hidden gem that was lurking in the depths. Being such a fan of police procedurals, I'm embarrassed to admit this is the first time I've read this author. Clearly need to crawl out from under my rock more often because this guy knows how to tell a story.

Set in Portland, Maine, we follow Detective John Byron as & his team as they face their worst nightmare...the murder of a cop. The investigation is soon compounded by further deaths that seem to link to an infamous bank robbery that took place 30 years ago. Oddly, no one involved seems particularly keen to talk. For John, the case becomes personal when he discovers ties to his long deceased father. 

In a nutshell it's a smart, pacy read with well placed twists that will have you questioning what you thought you knew. The cast is colourful & diverse with strong characterizations that ensure you become invested in their fates. 

My only complaint is that I had to have book #2 & picked it up right after I finished *sigh* My kindle may have to settle for wearing a one-piece.

 

                                        

                                     

 

 

Review
3 Stars
Dark Heart: 1 (A Cooper & Quinn Crime Thriller) - Catherine Lee

 

The assault on my overloaded kindle continues. This book has been on there for awhile & its time had come. It's a combination of police procedural & an interesting look at the concept of cellular memory in transplant patients.

 

Sooo...what if your new heart came from a serial killer? A recent murder victim is discovered to be the killer police have been hunting for 10 years. His donated organs will save a young woman's life but have enormous repercussions for her whole family.

 

I really liked the procedural aspect of the story. The 2 MC's (cops) were great characters & the plot suitably twisty. For 80% of the story I was all in. But I'm afraid I felt let down by the last bit for 2 reasons. One was the ethical dilemma faced by police at the end & how it played out. The other was the inclusion of a personal pet peeve.....instalove. You know, the old I've-known-you-for-5-minutes-and-can't-live-without-you scenario. Erk. The sad thing is the accelerated romance was unnecessary & not integral to the story line. Maybe it could have ended with the blissful couple just going on a first date?

 

Anyhoo, the rest of the book was a well written & pacy read. If you're a bigger fan of amour, ignore my rant & give this a go.

 

 

         

 

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