Category Archives: mystery

Emily Brightwell — Mrs. Jeffries Delivers the Goods

A pleasant, light, cozy Victorian mystery, with likeable characters. A quick easy read when you don’t want any substance in a novel. But I found it very repetitive and I solved the murder very early in the story. Having the inspector’s household staff and friends doing all the investigating is a fun idea. But keeping their discoveries secret from him, only fed to him through Mrs. Jeffries and his constable, seems a bit far-fetched.

This is my first read in what appears to be a very long series.

Dervla McTiernan — The Scholar

Irish DS Cormac Reilly becomes personally involved in a murder case when his girlfriend, Dr. Emma Stone, discovers the body of a girl near the Darcy Therapeutics lab where she works as a researcher. The victim is tentatively identified as Carline Darcy, granddaughter of John Darcy, billionaire owner of the largest pharmaceutical company in Ireland. But Carline is found alive and well in her apartment.

The plot is twisted and engaging, although we know half of the connections and motives by the middle of the story. I did find Cormac’s jumping to the right or wrong conclusions so quickly a little disconcerting. Everyone has secrets, even Cormac and Emma.

It’s a good police procedural. Characters are likable with enough problems in their lives to keep them interesting. I’m not sure why the series is labeled the “Cormac Reilly” series; Detective Carrie O’Halloran has an almost equal role in this novel. But this is the first book by McTiernan I’ve read.

I will look for more books by McTiernan.

Lee Child — Past Tense

I believe Lee Child has a subtle sense of humor in his writing. It feels like he thoroughly enjoys writing Reacher stories, making the unbelievable believable, letting this giant of a man wander across the country taking out all the bad guys in his path, and painting a picture of a country he loves.

I won’t go into the plot of Past Tense. You can read about it in almost every review. But I liked it.

I’ve read most or all of the Reacher books and enjoyed every one of them.

Liz Moore — Long Bright River

The title of this novel should be Long Dark River instead of Long Bright River. There is hardly a bright moment in the 500 pages. (It could be cut to about 300 without losing anything.) But it’s well written, enough to keep me reading through the whole book.

There are two plots. One is a family story about two sisters, a cop, Mickey, and an addict, Kacey. They haven’t been on speaking terms for years, but Mickey keeps an eye out for her sister. When she doesn’t see Kacey on the streets for several weeks, she assumes her sister is missing, possibly dead from an overdose or a serial killer who is loose in the neighborhood.

The serial killer is the second plot, the mystery. I think it’s supposed to be the main plot since the book is classified as a mystery/thriller (I’d call it “women’s fiction” or a family novel), but the serial killer thread takes a backseat to Mickey’s search for her sister. She’s not a very good cop. She neglects her duties, breaks rules, believes and follows up rumors, and finally gets suspended.

The first person narrator, Mickey, isn’t likable. She’s depressed, insecure, terrible decision-maker, and she doesn’t connect with people. The author spends far too much time in Mickey’s head and switches to her past in some chapters, which probably isn’t necessary. I wanted to like her but never connected.

One thing that irritates me about the writing is the use of the M-dash instead of quotes for dialog. It’s distracting. I don’t know what the author is trying to prove.

There’s not an ounce of humor in this story.

Lisa Gardner — When You See Me

Hikers find a girl’s bones off the Appalachian Trail in northern Georgia. They turn out to be the remains of a girl gone missing 15 years earlier, a suspected victim of dead serial kidnapper Jacob Ness. The incident brings together a team of crime investigators, led by FBI agent Kimberly Quincy. She recruits a group from Boston who have been tracking Ness’s crimes—police sergeant D.D. Warren, civilian kidnap-survivor Flora Dane, and Flora’s sidekick, computer guru Keith Edgar.

The book combines police procedural and thriller. The first part, mostly procedural and introduction to the characters if you haven’t followed the series, is a bit boring if you’ve followed Gardner’s novels. The pace picks up as it goes along, and the crimes and criminals pile up. The last few chapters are action-packed. The story pace feels like a train slowly chugging out of the station, picking up some speed as it goes through the city, then turning into high-speed rail.

The plot is chilling. Hopefully no real towns exist like the one in this story. Gardner’s excellent writing kept me reading even through the early slow chapters.

The pace and the proliferation of characters keep my rating at 4 stars, not 5. I would prefer fewer POV characters. Four women carry the story, each picking up separate pieces of information—Kimberly, D.D., Flora, and a girl without a name or voice who is held captive by the bad guys.

Even with these flaws, When You See Me is an excellent read. I recommend it, and I recommend that if you haven’t read other Lisa Gardner books…do it now!

P.J. Tracy — Ice Cold Heart

Not having read the previous books in the Monkeewrench series, this was a standalone for me. It was well written, and I enjoyed it.

The characters, good and bad, are interesting, some with unique backgrounds and personalities, but there are too many to follow. I was almost to the end of the story before I had them all sorted out. It probably would have helped to read earlier books in the series first. But they were warm, sometimes humorous, and the baby in the office at Monkeewrench added insight into some of the characters.

I won’t summarize the story; it’s covered many times in reviews. The plot had many twists and turns, but I feel it overdoes the coincidences and connections between crimes, like cop shows on TV. I can’t believe that happens often in real life.

There were several bad guys in this story, and I spotted them all early before they were revealed even though some were painted as good or harmless. But there is a twist at the end.

“You ever notice that when it’s this cold, snow doesn’t crunch, it squeaks?” The bitter cold Minneapolis setting made me shiver, reminding me of my many years living in the north. I’m glad I now live in Florida.

Overall a good read. I would recommend it, but with the caveat that you read other books in the series first.

Catriona McPherson — Scot Free

I’ve been looking for some humor, and in Scot Free, I found it. The last book I picked up to read that was supposed to be humorous didn’t do it for me, but this one makes me laugh.

I read some reviews where McPherson fans were disappointed in this novel, but since I haven’t read any of her previous books, I had no expectations. Her characters are ridiculous and outlandish, and I love them. The residents of the Last Ditch Motel, where Lexi ends up entirely by accident, are unbelievable but loveable and laughable.

Lexi’s descriptions of California life from the point of view of a recent immigrant from Scotland are delightful. The plot is silly and unbelievable but entertaining.

Linwood Barclay — Elevator Pitch

Elevator Pitch is the first novel I’ve read by Linwood Barclay. I found the plot intriguing. Why would anyone kill people by messing with elevators? Is it just to terrorize the people of New York, one of the most vertical cities in the world? I predicted the villain early in the story but was led astray a few times before my guess was confirmed at the end. But I never guessed the “why” until revealed at the conclusion.

Barclay’s character portrayals are varied and interesting; the main ones are a reporter with an ax to grind, her daughter, two NYC police detectives, the mayor of New York, his son, and his “I take care of everything” staff member.

Although the book kept my interest throughout, it could use some editing, and it could lose about 200 pages. Lots of unneeded detail slowed the pace in the middle. I have a habit of skipping to the last few chapters of a book when I get bored, but this one kept my interest enough to keep me from doing that. I read all 600 plus pages.

I will look for more of Barclay’s writing.

Ann Cleeves — The Long Call

A police procedural mystery with beautiful coastal England settings and a mix of interesting characters.

The plot includes the murder of an apparently homeless man and two kidnappings of Down syndrome women. Detective Matthew Venn believes they are somehow related. All the victims have connections to his husband Jonathon’s service center, The Woodyard, which houses an artist’s colony, a counseling service, and a center for the learning disabled.

The author’s characters are varied and usually believable. But I found DI Venn a bit too insecure for a detective leading a murder investigation. His constable, Jenn Rafferty, is lively and smart. Ross, another member of Venn’s team, is young and impatient.

Cleeves’s description of North Devon brings to life the sights, smell, and sounds of the villages, countryside, and the coastline.

The story held my interest throughout. The pace is somewhat slow in the middle but interesting enough to keep me reading. It picks up toward the end.

The Long Call is the second novel I’ve read by Ann Cleeves. I’ll look for more of her books.

Erin Morgenstern — The Starless Sea

The Starless Sea is a story about the love of stories.

The main plot lies mostly underground in a world filled with stories—in books and paintings and sculptures and even in people. Zachary Ezra Rawlings finds an uncatalogued book with no listed author in the library. The book contains a story about him when as a young boy he missed the opportunity of opening a door painted on a wall. But the book is older than Zachary. How could the author know his story? His search for the source of the book leads him to the labyrinth of stories lying under his feet.

Morgenstern’s novel is filled with unrelated stories, fables, fairytales, and myths that intertwine and finally connect at the end of the book. These individual stories contain romance, loss, time and fate, humor…

I’m not usually a fan of fantasy, but I was absorbed in this book and Morgenstern’s excellent writing. She has a fantastic imagination.