Category Archives: mystery

Peter Swanson — Before She Knew Him

We know who the killer is from the beginning of this book, but that doesn’t spoil the story. Hen and her husband Lloyd have moved into a new neighborhood in a small Massachusetts town. She reluctantly attends a party and sees a trophy in neighbor Matthew’s office that she believes is connected to a murder she obsessively researched a few years earlier.

She tells the police, but due to a history of mental problems, they distrust her credibility. Lloyd even doubts her. Hen and Matthew have conversations where he admits he has murdered people.

The novel is a suspenseful psychological thriller. Swanson held my interest throughout, even though I suspected the ending twist.

Lisa Gardner — Look for Me

Lisa Gardner creates interesting characters and manages to keep them entertaining through multiple books. I can read them out of order, which I did, and still enjoy each book.

The plot of Look for Me is twisted, with multiple suspects for the murder of a family. One daughter, Roxy Baez, survives because she is walking the dogs. Then she disappears. Boston police detective D.D. Warren looks for her with the help of survivor turned vigilante, Flora Dane. Is Roxy running from fear, or is she the shooter?

Another excellent tale by Ms. Gardner.

Nick Petrie — Tear it Down

Peter Ash goes to Memphis to help Wanda Wyatt, who has been receiving strange threats since purchasing an old house and moving in. When he arrives, he finds someone has driven a dump truck into the front of Wanda’s house. While trying to track down who might have done it, A young thief, a homeless street musician, steals Peter’s pickup truck. Peter decides to help the young musician, too.

I like Peter, even though he often makes stupid and risky decisions. (He always gets out of the dangerous situations where these decisions lead him.) All of the characters in the story are interesting, even the bad guys. Plenty of bad guys populate the book—the young boys, who rob a jewelry store; a farmer and his psycho brother, who are trying to drive Wanda out of her house; the gang boss of the Memphis drug world and his close associates, who are chasing the boy that stole Peter’s truck; and more. Even Peter and his friend Lewis are not always on the right side of the law.

Suspend your disbelief, and you will enjoy the story.

Stieg Larsson — The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

I intended to read this book years ago and finally got to it. I won’t go into great detail. There are plenty of reviews available with so much detail you almost don’t need to read the book.

There are two plots. The story begins with Mikael Blomkvist’s conviction for libel for an article he wrote about billionaire businessman Wennerström. This plot line stays in the background until late in the book. Mikael is then hired by Vander, another rich man, to write a family history as a cover to find out what happened to his granddaughter, Harriet, who disappeared almost forty years earlier. This is the plot that consumes most of the book.

The book covers many subjects including business greed and crime, abuse of women, twisted family relationships, journalism ethics, Swedish Nazism, computer hacking, and more.

There are also two main characters: Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander, (the girl with the dragon tattoo). Lisbeth doesn’t get involved with the investigation until about halfway through the story, but we follow what she is doing before that. Larsson gives us great detail about both of these very different characters.

I enjoyed the book from the beginning, even though the first half was rather slow with too much detail about clothes, meals, and day-to-day minutia. Mikael spends a lot of time on the family history and very little on the missing girl until way into the book.

The climax of the story occurs about three-quarters of the way through. The rest of the book ties up all the loose ends, including the first plot.

Larsson’s writing kept me interested from beginning to end.

James Lee Burke — The New Iberia Blues

Burke writes vivid settings. He brings you into the bayous of Louisiana and activates all your senses—sight, sound, smell, taste, touch—and more. He laments what greed and politics is doing to his beloved land.

His characters (good guys and bad guys) have depth. But protagonist, Dave Robicheaux, has to be in his eighties and is still playing cop and lusting after women in their twenties. Dream on, Burke. A bit less of Robicheaux’s anger and feeling sorry for himself would make him more likable and move the story along.

The plot keeps you guessing about the villain, who is ritualistically killing members of the community using a tarot theme. But I did suspect the killer early on.

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.