Category Archives: mystery

Erik Storey — A Promise to Kill

Clyde Barr is a Jack Reacher type character. But Erik Storey doesn’t write as well as Lee Child. Barr is the only character in this novel with much depth. The others are brushed over lightly. I liked the setting in the desert of Utah on a Ute reservation. I could feel the dry heat and see the rundown town.

The plot wasn’t bad with a motorcycle gang invading the reservation, waiting for something. A bit too macho for my taste—too much violence. Barr gets beat up a lot, but always survives.

The book kept my interest enough for me to finish it, but I won’t be looking for another Erik Storey novel.

Lisa Gardner — Never Tell

Never Tell is a book of secrets told from three women’s POVs. Evie Carter finds her husband dead—murder or suicide—picks up the gun and shoots his computer. Homicide detective D.D. Warren knows Evie as a girl who sixteen years ago “accidentally” shot and killed her own father. D.D.’s civilian informant, Flora Dane, sees a picture of Evie’s dead husband and recognizes him as someone she met while a kidnap victim of Jacob Ness.

The three distinctive characters are well-defined and interesting, revealing secrets as the story progresses and uncovering other secrets about Evie’s husband, father, and mother, and about Flora’s kidnapper. Peripheral characters are also distinct and interesting. The setting is in Boston, my favorite city. The complex plot kept me guessing.

An excellent novel by a first-rate author.

Gytha Lodge — She Lies in Wait

Seven teenagers go camping and only six return. A massive search doesn’t turn up Aurora, at fourteen, the youngest of the group. Thirty years later, her body is found in a hollow beneath a tree along with remnants of a stash of drugs.

The timeline alternates between current and the night of the murder. Point-of-view shifts between cops and campers, both present and thirty years prior. The author does a good job of switching time and POV, and I didn’t find it confusing.

Lodge paints good pictures of each of her many characters—four police and the six campers (seven with Aurora)—each character unique. She even adds a couple of extras into the mix. It may be a little overload on character development.

She keeps us guessing about the murderer, but I did have an idea of who it was early in the story. The plot could be a little slow for some readers, but I found the details of police procedural interesting.

A good first novel. I look forward to the next book in the series with DCI Jonah Sheens.

Preston & Child — Verses for the Dead

The duo of authors Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child is fascinating to me. They write seamlessly together. As an author, I am curious about how the collaboration works. I’ve tried writing with others, and it worked only one time. When it gelled, it was fruitful and fun, but you could tell we were two authors. With Preston and Child, it feels like one.

Also intriguing—Agent Pendergast is still an interesting protagonist after eighteen books. I find it difficult to continue with the same characters into a second novel. I prefer starting with a new story and new characters.

Needless to say, excellent read.

Gregg Hurwitz — Out of the Dark: (Orphan X #4)

This novel would rate five stars except there’s far too much violence.

Evan Smoak is Orphan X. The Orphan program was a deep, dark, black-ops program where children were recruited and trained as assassins. Evan was taken from a group home at age twelve and lived with his trainer/mentor until he was nineteen and went out into the field on his first assignment. The Orphans were never told why their targets were chosen, only that they were enemies of the United States. Later Even left the program and became “The Nowhere Man” who worked for people in desperate need of help.

The U.S. president, who used to run the Orphan program, is now eliminating all the Orphans. When Evan’s mentor is murdered, he decides to go after President Bennett. But Evan is also Bennett’s number one target. Evan’s first assignment as an Orphan is one the president particularly wants to hide.

At the same time, Evan is working a case as The Nowhere Man, helping a young man with autism whose family has been wiped out by a drug cartel.

Evan is violent and indestructible. He has access to all the right people to get the job done. If you can get beyond the unbelievable traits, he’s interesting and likable.

Carol Goodman — The Widow’s House

Clare and Jess Martin Move from NYC to a small town in the Hudson River Valley, to hopefully give them a new start on their marriage and their writing. They move into an old crumbling mansion owned by their former professor from a local college where they both attended school. According to local rumor, the house is haunted. Clare sees or imagines a ghost several times in the first few months at the house and begins writing a novel about a woman who left her baby on the back steps to freeze and then drowned in the pond behind the house. As Clare investigates local records for her book, she finds the facts don’t always match the rumors.

I’m not a big fan of ghost stories. I believe they’re meant to frighten the reader, and since I’m not afraid of ghosts, they lose the desired effect. But this was a good mystery plot, and the book left you wondering whether or not the house was truly haunted.

I couldn’t connect with any of the characters—Clare, a psychological mess living with abusive husband Jess; Monty, retired professor with an overblown ego; Katrine, nosey realtor who keeps showing up at the house, and others we don’t get to know well.

Good mystery plot, good setting, but a ghost story.

Sara Paretsky — Shell Game

I enjoyed this book, but I’m not quite sure why.

The characters were not very likeable, even the protagonist, V.I. (Vic) Warshawski, PI and lawyer. If I had read the numerous previous novels about her, maybe I would have connected more with her. She grew on me as the story progressed, but she was scattered, running around acting without thinking, almost always angry at the world and at most people. Many of her questions could have been answered by her “friends” in law enforcement instead of illegally breaking into homes or business offices.

The plot was helter-skelter. Vic had two clients—a friend’s nephew who was a person of interest in a murder because his name and phone number were found on the victim and Vic’s ex-husband’s niece who was looking for her missing sister. Even though the cases appeared to have nothing to do with each other, they became offshoots of the same crime.

Spoiler alert. I’m disappointedwith the ending. Vic’s ex, whom she despised, was one of the bad guys, but she didn’t turn him in.

Preston & Child — The Pharaoh Key

Gideon Crew and Manuel Garza have been dumped by their boss as he shuts down his company without notice. On their way out the door, they discover a computer has solved the translation to an ancient disk. But the translation is in code. When they finally break the code, it turns out to be a map to a remote corner of the Egyptian desert. With only a few months to live, Gideon has nothing to lose, and Garza is hoping to find lost treasure as payment for the years he has given his employer. A lack of guides who are willing to travel to the prohibited region forces them to join a camel caravan with archeologist/geologist/Egyptologist Imogen Blackburn.

Their journey is full of pitfalls and perils, from escaping a sinking ferry in the Red Sea, to being abandoned in the desert without supplies or camels, to the threat of beheading by a tribe of natives…

Reading this made me feel like I was living through an Indiana Jones movie. A true action/adventure book.

Jude Deveraux — A Willing Murder

This novel is a cozy murder mystery with a dash of chick flick, some romance, some humor, some family saga, and a lot of small town gossip and rumor. Realtor Kate Medlar moves to Lachlan, Florida and stays in an old mansion with her aunt Sara Medlar, romance novelist, and Sara’s friend Jake Wyatt, builder. When a tree falls over in the back yard of a house Jake is remodeling, the unlikely trio of sleuths find the bones of two women in the roots of the tree.

I did figure out the villains in the story long before the end. And I could see that Deveraux left relationships to be explored in the next book.

The novel is a well-written, quick and easy read with believable, lively characters and small town dynamics.

Walter Mosley — Charcoal Joe

Mosley writes classic hard-boiled PI fiction. We ride along with Easy Rawlins as he tries to prove a young black man’s innocence who was in the wrong place at the wrong time and to help others solve their problems along the way. One of those problems is to hide an African king who has married Easy’s ex-girlfriend in order to immigrate to the States and escape those from his home country who want to kill him.

The excellent writing pulls you into the dark side of LA and the characters are interesting and believable. Charcoal Joe is one of those books that kept me up into the middle of the night.