Category Archives: mystery

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!

Steve Berry — Bishop’s Pawn

With appropriate timing—fifty years after MLK died, Steve Berry gives a fictional version of how and why the assassination took place.

The bulk of the story takes place 18 years ago when old paperwork from FBI files resurface about an operation called Bishop’s Pawn. An ex-FBI agent living in Cuba wants to trade the documents for a rare coin. Cotton Malone’s first assignment with the Justice Department is to recover the coin and the files.

Justice and FBI agents, active and retired want to get their hands on the secret files. Some want to destroy them, and others want to make them public. All parties want to know what they contain, what they might reveal about the assassination.

This was a good read, bouncing around Florida, more secrets uncovered at every turn. I think it could have been told in a shorter version without losing anything. I also wonder how Malone could have people dying all around him without getting arrested or killed—not always believable. But the story was interesting enough to keep me reading to the end and the end revealed one more twist.

Robert Crais — The Wanted

Devon Conner’s teenage son Tyson has run off and she’s worried that he’s into something illegal with new friends that she doesn’t approve of. She hires Elvis Cole to find him and to find out what kind of trouble he’s in. Cole finds that Tyson and his friends have been robbing homes of the very rich around Los Angeles. When Tyson’s friend Alec is murdered, Tyson and friend Amber don’t believe it. They continue to live the high life and hide from his mother.

Not only does Crais write good plots, he writes with humor and his characters are always interesting. Elvis Cole and his sidekick muscle Joe Pike have been around for many of Crais’s novels, yet they haven’t become boring. The young thieves in The Wanted have individual and credible personalities. Even the bad guys who are killing people have interests other than murder.

I’ve given up on many of the prolific authors who write series novels, but not Robert Crais. He still holds my attention.

M.C. Beaton — Death of an Honest Man

Scottish Police Sergeant Hamish Macbeth is an offbeat character, and so are all the others in this murder mystery. Even a wildcat is a character in the story. A newcomer insults all the people he comes into contact with, so when his body turns up in the heath bog, Hamish’s list of suspects includes most everyone in the area.

This is a fun read full of unbelievable happenings and Hamish breaking the rules again and again. He also manages to lose every assistant his superiors send him—some to become chefs and sheep herders, one to marriage.

I will look for more of Beaton’s books.

John Keyse-Walker — Beach, Breeze, Bloodshed

BVI Constable Teddy Creque is called on to capture a shark that has attacked and killed a woman off Virgin Gorda. But sharks don’t usually attack humans unless they are dead or wounded, and Teddy sees a cut on the woman’s neck that doesn’t appear to be caused by shark’s teeth.

The story unfolds around unique characters, including a brilliant boy who almost never speaks, a parrot who repeats everything he hears, a Russian ex-spy, “De White Rasta” Teddy’s cohort from the previous story, and various other fascinating participants.

bananaquits
Bananaquits

For me, the setting draws me back to the islands. I can picture the people, the shops and houses, the tropical flowers, the warm humid air, the beautiful clear water—even the birds are familiar. I haven’t seen or heard of a bananaquit since I lived in the Bahamas where they would join me for breakfast on the veranda, stealing my food.

I also appreciate that the author didn’t drag us through the protagonist’s depression as many crime novels do. Teddy apparently went through a period of moping over his mistakes and his affair with a not-so-nice woman between novels. But he mostly has his act together by the time this story happens, although he doubts his policing skills from time to time.

Keyse-Walker’s second novel is as engaging as his first. He again captures the spirit of Caribbean island life. This time on Virgin Gorda, a tiny bit faster-paced than Anegada where his first book took place, due to more people, more tourists, etc.

I’m delighted that I went back for seconds.

Lisa Black — That Darkness

Maggie Gardiner, forensic scientist with Cleveland police, sees a connection between three recent homicides. Jack Renner is a Cleveland police detective working on the same crimes. But Jack is also a killer—a vigilante. Some of the dead are his victims. This makes an interesting plot, with Maggie putting together clues and Jack trying to mislead her.

I enjoyed the book—the characters, the plot, the police work, and the different ending. It kept me reading into the wee small hours.

J.T. Ellison — Lie to Me

This is the story of a marriage falling apart. Sutton and Ethan Montclair are both writers who claim to love each other, but they don’t trust each other. Their lives are full of hidden secrets and lies. Both writing careers are in trouble and their infant son dies of SIDS. Then Sutton disappears. The police think Ethan has murdered her, except Holly Graham who is lead in the case.

The plot twists and turns, and we know from the beginning that there is some female villain who is manipulating things, but we don’t know who or why.

This was a good read. The story kept my interest. But I wasn’t thrilled with the characters. Both husband and wife are very self-centered. Sutton has hidden secrets about her life before meeting Ethan. She runs away from her life. Ethan tries to drink away his troubles, many times more worried about himself than his missing wife. The reader should like or identify with in some way the protagonists. I couldn’t dredge up much sympathy for either Sutton or Ethan, even though a very evil person was destroying their lives. I liked Holly Graham, but she was not the main character.

I did read the whole book, which I won’t do if it doesn’t grab me in some way.

Fiona Barton — The Child

During an excavation in London to upgrade an old neighborhood, the skeleton of a newborn baby is found. The police estimate the burial to be thirty to forty years ago. This grabs newspaper reporter Kate Waters’ attention, and she starts digging to find people who lived on the street at the time. She finds an old story about a baby stolen from the hospital, but as the date of the burial becomes clearer some things don’t match. The missing child was kidnapped a decade earlier and in a different neighborhood. Working the story, Kate finds more information and secrets, plus some unexpected surprises.

Trying to figure out what had happened, the book held my interest from the beginning, but it didn’t really grab me until the latter part of the story, keeping me up late the last night to finish it.

I guess the novel would be women’s fiction, mystery, maybe literary, maybe psychological thriller. I know that I say I’m not into women’s fiction, but there are some very talented writers in that genre. Author Barton kept me reading and kept me guessing. I would definitely read another of her novels.

Samuel Bjork — The Owl Always Hunts at Night

Police investigator Mia Krüger and her boss Holger Munch head a team looking into the strange death of a young girl found posed in the woods on a bed of feathers. They discover a film of the girl in a cage, running in a wheel like an animal in order to get food. What sort of sick person would do this?

Maybe it’s the cold and the long dark nights or maybe it’s the books I choose to read, but it seems that whenever I read a novel by a Scandinavian author, they are filled with gloom. Norwegian Bjork fills the story with characters (good and bad) who are depressed or psychologically damaged. It’s set in the beginning of a long, cold, dark, Norway winter.

Even so, I enjoyed the plot’s twists and turns, the unraveling of a very strange murder, and even those bleak characters involved in solving the crime.