Category Archives: mystery

Kris Calvin — All That Fall

The book kept my attention even though I felt there were some holes in the plot. I liked characters Emma, Alibi, and Luke. I even liked Tommy but felt he was removed from the story too soon. I wasn’t crazy about Dylan (stalker mentality) and felt he was added to the story just to help Emma find out what was going on.

The biggest hole in the plot was the lack of attention paid to the kidnapping of the governor’s granddaughter. The police appear to be more interested in the murder of a young man and even the accidental death of one of their own, Tommy. Everyone seems to be overlooking big clues that Luke is in trouble.

I enjoyed the read and look forward to the next book in the Emma Lawrence series.

Laura Dave — The Last Thing He Told Me

Great writing. Excellent story-telling. Characters that captured my heart.

This novel was a welcome change from a lot of books I’ve read recently. I’m tired of reading about characters who are drunks and/or totally screwed up psychologically. Hannah is a strong intelligent woman who loves her husband and stepdaughter. When husband Owen goes missing she wants to find him and to know why he left, not only for herself but for step-daughter Bailey. Bailey is a believable teenager. The contentious but growing relationship between them is a big part of the story. I liked all the characters including Owen who doesn’t actually appear in the story. But we know him from Hannah and Bailey’s hearts.

The story is unusual and the ending unexpected. It was a pleasure to read a story without lots of gratuitous violence. Hannah follows the threads of Owen’s life to find out who he is and where he came from.

Some reviewers mentioned bad editing. As an editor, I sometimes get turned off by a book with questionable editing. But I was so involved in the story that I didn’t notice any errors if they were there.

I will look for more books by Laura Dave.

Martha Wells — Fugitive Telemetry

Murderbot Diary #6 follows an almost standard closed room (an isolated section of Preservation Station) murder mystery plot line. Muderbot works as a consulting independent private investigator (SecUnit or security bot) working with the police (security system and space station personnel). But the imaginative SF setting and the grumpy, paranoid, snarky, and protective personality of Murderbot set the story steps above a normal murder mystery.

The story starts with an unidentified victim with unknown who done it, how, why, and even where was the murder committed. Murderbot is limited in his investigation because of an agreement he’s made not to hack the station’s systems.

As always, I’m fascinated with Murderbot, the SecUnit who wants to spend its time absorbed in media and is disgusted by humans but can’t overcome his urge to protect them. Wells is extremely creative with characterization (mainly with Murderbot but also with other characters) and her world-building settings are definitely “out of this world.”

Great SF series. Martha Wells has a terrific imagination. She creates a cyborg character who is more human than some people I know. She’s good at world-building, plotting, characterization, and keeps my attention throughout. She writes with the three H’s — head, heart, and humor.

Having read #1 through #6, I’m looking forward to more. I understand that Wells has at least three more Murderbot books in the pipeline.

Lee Child and Andrew Child — The Sentinel

Browsing through reviews of The Sentinel, I see a number of readers think Reacher has lost some of his personality being co-authored by Lee Child and his brother Andrew. I didn’t feel that way. Reacher might be a little older, a little mellower, but he’s still the same loner with a wanderlust that keeps him traveling throughout the country. He’s still a magnet for people in trouble and can’t resist jumping in to help. He continues to have the unbelievable ability to win every fight no matter how many opponents he faces. And he still travels with only a toothbrush. He did have a phone for a short time in this story, but he gave it back in the end.

I like Reacher’s personality—positive and upbeat, helpful in the extreme, no greed, no depression, no guilt. The two Child brothers have maintained that temperament. And I see humor in the exaggeration of character traits, especially the villains, and in Reacher’s deadpan dialog. It’s not laugh-out-loud humor, but it’s there.

I will keep reading more Reacher books as long as they keep publishing.

Lisa Gardner — Right Behind You

Lisa Gardner is one of my favorite authors. She writes intriguing psychological thrillers with fascinating characters that keep me involved. Right Behind You is no exception. Gardner gives us an in-depth look at thirteen-year-old Sharlah and her seventeen-year-old brother Telly, foster kids living with two different families. They were split up eight years earlier after Telly killed their father to protect them.

There are other interesting characters as well—Sheriff Shelly, Tracker Cal, and of course Quincy and Rainy—all of them working together searching for Telly who they suspect of a “spree” murder of four people, beginning with his foster parents. Besides working with the sheriff, Quincy and Rainy are Sharlah’s foster parents.

Strangely enough, two dead characters also caught my imagination—Telly’s foster mother Sandra, killed along with her husband Frank, and Sandra’s mob boss father who died of cancer. Sandra and her father hadn’t spoken in thirty years until shortly before he died.

Even though I figured out an important plot point early in the book, there were enough twists and turns to keep me involved, and enough unanswered questions to keep me reading.

An underlying theme of this story is family—what makes it work and what tears it apart. Although the parents of both foster kids were idealized to the point they were hard to believe.

Overall a great read.

Joseph Schneider — One Day You’ll Burn

A middle-of-the-road crime novel.

The good parts:

  • An unusual murder—a man roasted to death and dumped in the middle of the street in front of a Thai shrine.
  • New detective Jarsdel and old-timer Morales building a partner relationship.
  • A clearer picture of LA than most LA novels I’ve read lately (but I’m getting bored with LA).
  • An interesting secondary plot about someone killing pet dogs. (But why are the detectives on this case?)
  • An unusual detective—Tully Jarsdel has left academia to become a cop.

The not so good parts:

  • Jarsdel spends way too much time explaining and thinking about why he left his previous life to join the LAPD—repetitive.
  • Jarsdel’s unsympathetic two dads, who hate that he became a policeman—not an ounce of understanding.
  • The whiny girlfriend.
  • Not very good motives for the murderer or the dog killer.
  • Jarsdel’s “save the world” attitude.
  • The book could probably have been 100 pages shorter, leaving out some of the repetitive information, descriptions about driving routes, Jarsdel’s brooding about his life, etc.

Overall I enjoyed the story enough to keep reading to the end. I might read more of the series.

Harlan Coben — Win

Winston Horne Lockwood III, Win, is an egotistical jerk, but he knows it. He lives by his own rules because of his wealth and power. He likes few people and few people like him. I dislike his type—violent, above the law, with his own set of morals—but I find I almost like Win at times, especially his connection to his daughter. Mostly he’s the type of character I love to hate.

The plot is complex and interesting and Win’s decisions at the end of what to reveal and what not to reveal make an “almost” satisfying finish.

Elly Griffiths — Postscript Murders

Amazon calls this book a “Editors Pick: Mystery, Thriller & Suspense,” and lists it under “Gothic Mysteries” and “Police Procedurals.” I don’t think any of these genres apply. It’s a cozy mystery with a group of amateur detectives working with DS Harbinder Kaur because they believe their 90-year-old friend Peggy was murdered. It’s not gothic and the police procedurals are mostly about following instincts and vague clues. The story bumps along at a fairly slow pace (even with a few murders thrown in), not a fast-paced action-packed thriller.

The characters in the story are humorous and entertaining—Edwin, an 85-year-old neighbor of Peggy retired from BBC; Benedict, ex-monk, now a café owner; and Natalka, Peggy’s caregiver, an immigrant from Ukraine.

The climax of the novel is like rolling over a gentle hill instead of climbing a peak. And the wrap-up after the murders are solved goes on for a few chapters.

I read this as a stand-alone even though it’s the second book in the Harbinder Kaur series. I read the first book but didn’t connect until after finishing. It was a pleasant read if not all that exciting.

Candice Fox — Gathering Dark

Another good read from Candice Fox, but I prefer her books set in Australia. I read plenty of crime fiction books with LA as a backdrop. I’d much rather read the unknown to me settings in Australia where my imagination can take flight.

As they are in Fox’s other books, the characters are strong but quirky; many are mean and nasty. There are so many “bad guys” in this story it’s sometimes difficult to keep track of who’s who. All the cops are shady and twisted, some even criminal. Even Jessica Sanchez, the protagonist, pulls some very bad stunts in revenge on her partner after he fails to back her up on a call. Blair Harbour, the other main character, is only a year out of prison for killing her neighbor. She tries to be good but doesn’t always succeed. Blair’s friend “Tweat” (Blair is trying to help her find her daughter) is a thief and a liar.

I’m not sure if some of the outrageous and improbably situations the characters found themselves in were meant to be humorous, but they made me laugh.

Lisa Gardner — Before She Disappeared

I’m a fan of Lisa Gardner, and Before She Disappeared is another well-written, character-driven mystery. I wouldn’t call it a thriller as advertised. Also, it’s called a “stand alone” novel, but my instincts tell me we will see more of protagonist Frankie Elkin.

Frankie is a white, middle-aged, recovering alcoholic, skinny wisp of a woman, who inserts herself into a Haitian neighborhood in Boston to find a missing teen girl. She stands out like a spot of bleach on dark cloth. She travels around working as a bartender, but her purpose in life is finding missing persons. She has found fourteen people but all after they died. Her passion is to bring one home alive.

Gardner defines her characters in detail and gives us insights to even minor players. I found Frankie courageous, tenacious, sometimes very likeable, sometimes totally irritating. Others in the story—Frankie’s boss, her Boston police connection, her AA friend, the missing girl’s family, the villains, and more—were all interesting personalities. Even the feral cat, Frankie’s roommate, has a personality and brings a touch of humor to a dark story.

The plot held my interest with twists and turns, but was somewhat slow in the beginning. Having lived in and around Boston most of my adult life, I loved the setting even though I’m not that familiar with Mattapan. Even though the neighborhood in the book is poor and sometimes violent, Gardner builds a feeling of community togetherness.

A very good story. Only my irritation with Frankie’s reckless actions and her obsessions with her past kept me from giving it five stars.