Category Archives: mystery

Fern Michaels —Truth or Dare

The book is an easy read, but predictable—not much suspense or mystery. There are too many coincidences and the good guys never seem to have a problem executing their plans. They also have lots of money to throw around to get the job done. Not entirely believable. Most of the story takes place sitting around “the farm” discussing what they’re going to do next.

Far too many characters to follow populate the story. At times their names are almost the same; i.e. Margie and Maggie. Maybe if I had read the previous Men of the Sisterhood novels it would be easier. I also think most of the characters display juvenile behavior. At times it feels like they’re playing a video game. The super-intelligent dogs are my favorite characters.

I stuck with the book to the end because I wanted to learn more about child trafficking. It was an okay read.

Anne Hillerman — Cave of Bones

Anne Hillerman is Tony Hillerman’s daughter. Father Tony started a series of novels about Leaphorn and Chee, two Navaho tribal policemen in the four corners area of New Mexico. Anne continued the series adding Tribal Police Officer Bernadette (Bernie) Manuelito, who married Chee.

Many incidents keep Bernie occupied:

  • A young girl, Annie, wanders off from an outreach program on the lava fields. Her instructor/trail guide goes looking for her. Even though Annie returns the next morning, the guide is unexpectedly missing. He is very familiar with the area.
  • Annie found ancient bones in a cave. When Bernie later checks the cave, she finds the site has been disturbed. It appears someone has been illegally stealing artifacts from a sacred Navajo site.
  • Bernie finds a wrecked pickup truck with the driver still inside, apparently hallucinating. He dies in the hospital.
  • A blizzard shuts down the highway and Bernie’s car slides off the road.
  • A box that Bernie took from the pickup to deliver for the driver is stolen from her car.
  • And more…

Many of these incidents end up being related in the end.

Chee is in Santa Fe taking some courses for his job. He is asked to check on a woman’s son who has quit communicating with her. The son also ends up missing. He also checks on Bernie’s sister who is taking a class at an art school. He doesn’t trust her boyfriend.

The plot is intricate with many hints about what is happening throughout the story. At times, I felt Bernie brushed aside her instincts and ignored what could have led her to a quick conclusion.

Author Anne Hillerman obviously loves the land of New Mexico. Her descriptions are beautiful. She also has a great interest in the Navaho customs and traditions.

In the past, I’ve read some of Tony Hillerman’s books. This is the first I’ve read by Anne Hillerman.

I enjoyed the trip through New Mexico, the Navajo background information, the characters, and the story.

Nora Roberts — Shelter in Place

This month my library “books-by-mail” service sent two books by romance writers—Shelter in Place by Nora Roberts and Shattered Mirror by Iris Johansen. I’m not a fan of romance novels and had both authors categorized in my brain as a romance writers. But I read both, and neither were romance novels. I wasn’t thrilled with Johansen’s book. The characters felt flat to me. But Robert’s book was a different story.

I haven’t read anything by Nora Roberts in many years. Shelter in Place was a very pleasant surprise. The plot was intriguing, the characters pulled me in, and I enjoyed the visit to the Maine coast.

The story starts with a mass shooting at a Mall in Portland. We see this horrible event from several characters points of view. Robert’s follows some of the survivors through the next few years, all dealing with the shock to their lives in different ways. Then a serial killer starts murdering survivors.

In the last third of the book there is a romance blossoming. But that’s forgivable. Many good thrillers and mysteries serve up a side dish of romance.

I thoroughly enjoyed Shelter in Place.

Lee Child — The Midnight Line: A Jack Reacher Novel

A few days ago I watched a video of Stephen King interviewing Lee Child. Two of my favorite authors talking about writing—I loved it. In the interview, Lee Child talked about his lack of plotting. He said he asks a question at the beginning of the book and answers it by the end.

A friend had dropped off a copy of Child’s The Midnight Line and it was at the bottom of my “to read” pile next to my bed. I moved it to the top of the pile and quickly consumed it. I found that not only is there an unanswered question at the beginning, but there are more questions cropping up throughout the book. Each question needs to be answered, not necessarily in the order they appear in the story. The original question is answered long before the end of the book, but there are so many more that need answers, which kept me reading to the end.

In The Midnight Line Reacher finds a woman’s West Point class ring in a pawn shop in Wisconsin. His curiosity about why someone would pawn a ring that is so difficult to earn leads him to track her down and find out why. Reacher smells trouble and in his usual vigilante style sets out to solve the mystery and save the damsel in distress. His trek takes him through South Dakota into a sparsely populated corner of Wyoming.

Pronghorn in Wyoming

I read some reviews on Amazon and found a number who were not happy with this book. (Many more gave it high ratings.) The low raters all seemed to think it didn’t have enough action and violence. To me, there is much more to a Reacher novel than violence, and this one had plenty of action even though he wasn’t killing a lot of people.

I find Child’s unique writing style fascinating. I’m not sure I can describe it. Rhythmic, quick, and precise are words that come to mind. This book has an underlying theme about the current opiate addiction crisis and the government’s poor treatment of veterans. He gives in-depth pictures of characters and lets us follow Reacher’s calculation and planning. We even get a look at the possible thoughts and behaviors of addicts. Child took me on a journey through the back-country of Southern Wyoming.

The book has all of my three H’s—head, heart, and humor. I feel he’s an excellent writer and storyteller. He doesn’t follow the rules, but that makes the reading more interesting. You never know what to expect.

Laura Lippman — Wilde Lake

I don’t usually review a book I don’t like, but this is an exception. I want to talk about the writing style, which is a big part of the reason the book didn’t grab me. I don’t finish most books unless they hold my attention to the end and don’t feel I should review them without finishing. For some reason, I finished this one. I kept expecting it to get better.

Lu (Louisa Brant, state’s attorney for Howard County Maryland) is the narrator. She is not a likeable protagonist. She is all about winning—beating her boss out of his job, doing better at everything than her brother, winning the murder case she’s trying, etc. She has two children, twins, that we never meet. There is a housekeeper/nanny that Lu doesn’t like. Her brother and father could be interesting characters, but we don’t get to know them.

A big distraction was the author’s use of switching from first person to third person and back with the same narrator. The book even uses a different font when switching from first to third person chapters. I noticed this diversion right away, because I format books for self-published authors. Lippman uses third person present for current happenings and first person to tell us about past events. There is little or no connection between these chapters until close to the end of the book.

This is a murder mystery where we know the killer early but not his motive. It’s more about Lu trying to make her case for court than about the mystery. The story drags and is full of gimmicks. There is even an affair between Lu and one of her brother’s married friends which has nothing to do with the story.

This is a dark novel. Dark stories can keep my interest, but not this one. It lacks a good plot, interesting characters, and a satisfying ending. I read Wilde Lake right after Lippman’s Sunburn, which I enjoyed. You wouldn’t know they are by the same author.

Laura Lippman — Sunburn

Amazon classifies this book as a murder mystery/thriller, but it’s not your typical mystery. The plot revolves around a love story, but it’s not a romance novel. You might call it a psychological thriller. I don’t think it falls into any genre.

The story is about secrets and lies. Polly and Adam cross paths passing through a small town in Delaware. Both have secrets. Polly is running away from her husband and daughter, and she has a past that even they don’t know. Adam has been hired to find her. They fall in love and stay in the town for each other. But neither shares their secrets.

A woman dies in a fire in Polly’s apartment. It’s ruled an accident, but is it?

Sunburn is very strange story that follows no rules. But I like strange.

A.J. Finn — The Woman in the Window

Anna Fox has is a psychologist with agoraphobia. She can’t leave her home. She spends her time talking to a support group online, learning French online, playing chess online, watching old black and white movies, and watching her neighbors through their windows.

She has actual contact with few people—her physical therapist, her psychiatrist, and her tenant who occupies the bottom floor of her home. New neighbors move in and she has a visit from their teenage son, and then the mother, Jane Russell. One day through the window she sees a woman murdered—Jane Russell. Or did she? Anna drinks heavily and abuses her psych medications. Was she hallucinating?

The Woman in the Window is an intriguing psychological thriller. Twists and turns kept me reading Anna’s day-by-day tale.

Christopher Reich — The Take

A group of thieves stops a Saudi prince’s entourage on a back street in Paris and takes the car carrying the prince’s considerable amount of cash. The CIA agent who revealed the Saudi’s route to the airport to the thieves only asked for a briefcase the prince was carrying.

Simon Riske accepts the task of finding Tino Caluzzi, the man who planned the heist but didn’t turn over the briefcase. He knows Caluzzi from a previous life when they worked together as thieves in Marseilles.

It was difficult to decide who were the good guys and the bad guys. All the characters were some of each—Riske, Caluzzi, CIA agent, Russian oligarch, Russian assassin, Paris policewoman, and others. Reich gives depth to his entertaining cast of characters. Everyone was chasing everyone while trying to lay hands on a letter hidden in the briefcase.

The twists and turns of this international thriller kept me reading into the night.

Bryan Reardon — The Real Michael Swann

Michael Swann is in Penn Station when a bomb goes off. His wife Julia believes he’s alive and is obsessed with finding him.

I have mixed feelings about this book. The plot was good and characters were interesting. I read some reviews and some readers were surprised at the twist at the end. But I had it figured out early, maybe by the middle of the book.

The point of view switched back and forth between Julia and an unknown man with no memory who escaped the bombing. Scenes with Julia trying to find Michael with no idea of where she was going or how to find him alternated with her memories—good and bad—of their marriage. Sometimes this was easy to follow and sometimes  disjointed. I became irritated with Julia’s wild search as the story progressed. There was no logic to what she was doing; she acted in panic mode throughout the book.

Overall this was a good read. What would you do if a member of your family was caught in a terror attack, and you didn’t know if he or she was alive or dead? What would you do if the police and media started accusing that family member of being connected to the attack?

C.J. Tudor — The Chalk Man

This thriller/murder mystery jumps between 2016 and 1986. In 2016, Ed Adams is a small town school teacher haunted by events from 30 years past. In 1986, Eddie and his group of 12-year-old friends’ lives were interrupted by a terrible accident at the fair, two unsolved murders, a suicide, and a beating that left a man in an almost vegetative state.

Eddie’s father always told him “Never assume, Eddie. Question everything. Always look beyond the obvious.” But the whole town has made assumptions about what happened in 1986. When bad things start happening again in 2016, people once more make assumptions.

The Chalk Man, Tudor’s first novel, has an intriguing plot, great characters (young, middle-aged, and old), a setting that makes you feel you are there, and twists and turns that keep you hooked.

Excellent writing!