Category Archives: mystery

Gene Wolfe — Borrowed Man

Talk about weird concepts — E. A. Smithe is a clone of an author from a previous time who lives in a library and can be checked out like a book. Colette Coldbrook’s father died and her brother was murdered. Before being murdered he passed a book (written by Smithe) to Collete that he believed held a secret. So she checked the Smithe clone out of the library to help her discover the secret. Then she disappeared. Smithe sets out to try to find Colette.

It’s a good mystery/SF story. Devious twists and turns and lots of fun along the way.

Carolyn Baugh — Quick Sand

Ms. Baugh is an excellent writer. She engaged me with her characters and her story to the point where I was dreaming about them at night. This is unusual for me even though I read most every night before falling asleep

Quick Sand is a crime novel featuring a young Muslim woman from the Philadelphia police. She is assigned to a joint task force with the FBI and the sheriff’s department to fight drug trafficking. The job evolves into investigating murder and the human trafficking of young girls.

There are themes running through her writing about prejudice toward Muslims and the treatment of women. The protagonist is struggling with her feelings about her culture and a protective father. Baugh’s writing is very visual. At times I felt as if I was watching a movie or TV program.

I highly recommend this book.

Lee Child — Make Me

I’m not sure why I love the Jack Reacher books. There is so much violence, unbelievable plots (Child makes you believe them), always a woman for Reacher to connect with. It’s probably because Lee Child is a great writer.

This book is more like his earlier novels. He lands in a small town in the middle of the country, finds trouble, and takes care of it — or I should say “wipes it out.”

As always with Child’s book, I breezed right through it and enjoyed every minute.

Donna Leon — Falling in Love

It occurred to me that most of my reviews on this blog are more about the authors and their writing style than the novels. Maybe that’s true of most reviews.

Donna Leon’s writing fascinates me. She writes about Commissario Guido Brunetti and his police cases in Venice, Italy. I have read several of her books and feel as if from her writing I could visit Venice and feel at home. I also feel I know Guido Brunetti and several of the other characters in her stories.

The laid-back atmosphere of the Venice police permeates the book, interwoven and contrasting with a chilling plot. Brunetti takes long lunches at home with his family. He sits in his office contemplated the case he is working on, wanders the streets (or canals) of Venice not always knowing what he is looking for, and appears to socialize with others in his department as much as working. He has an appreciation of old Venice, its art, architecture, culture, people…and at times bemoans that it is becoming too much of a tourist destination.

The name of this book is misleading. It is a crime novel, a mystery, not a love story. The plot involves an opera singer who is being stalked. I won’t go into details about the book, but will tell you it ends with a powerful climax. Very unusual. Most novels give us at least one chapter of wrap-up after the climax. But none was needed.

Lisa Gardner — Crash & Burn

Nicola Frank is in an automobile accident and can’t remember who she is. The only thing she can remember is that she is looking for a little girl, Vero. But who is Vero? She doesn’t have, has never had a child. Her husband says she has no family. As her memory starts to return, so do memories of her past that her mind has buried for many years. Memories of being abducted as a child.

The plot twists and turns as Detective Foster investigates the accident and begins to think it wasn’t an accident.

Gardner keeps the tension high with this psychological thriller. The plot kept me engaged and the characters were intriguing. A good read.

S. J. Gazan – The Arc of the Swallow

I like reading authors from other countries. It gives me a glimpse into unfamiliar cultures and settings. Of course, some of them are good and some are not, like writers anywhere. Gazan, from Denmark, is one of the good ones. His style is different than what I’m used to, whether that is because he is Danish, or just his personal style. His pace is slower and he covers more detail than many of the US authors I’ve read recently.

Gazan weaves a story with multiple points of view and multiple timelines, jumping back and forth in time to cover a different POV of the same event. Marie Skow, PhD candidate in biology, is faced with two apparent suicides: her mother and her professor and mentor, Kristian Storm. Police detective Soren Marhaunge is not only connected to Skow because of the suicides, but finds that they were neighbors as children. There are other POVs, woven through past and present, family, friends, and colleagues. Gazan even feeds us part of the story through deceased Dr. Storm.

It is an interesting and complex mystery and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

W. Bruce Cameron — The Midnight Plan of the Repo Man

I love a book that can make me laugh and this is one of them. Ruddy McCann, the repo man, is an ex-jock, grumpy, big-hearted man. Besides spending his nights chasing down automobiles for the banks, he also helps his sister run a bar, which is about to fail.

Ruddy has a strange and vivid dream about being shot and dying followed by a voice in his head that won’t leave, who turns out to be the man who was killed in the dream. Of course, he has to find out who did it and why. But it’s not easy when the murder happened eight years earlier. To complicate things, Ruddy meets his mind-visitor’s daughter and falls for her.

The story is full of imagination, action, and laughter. The characters range from tough yet gentle, guilt-ridden Ruddy, who bounces through life with his dog, not caring about appearances or keeping his home tidy, to Alan Lotimer who literally occupies his mind. Lotimer is almost obsessively neat and not inclined to confrontation, of which Ruddy’s life is full. There are other interesting and quirky characters —Ruddy’s sister, who is trying to keep the bar afloat and make it into a family restaurant, Ruddy’s boss, who thinks Ruddy is suffering from “repo madness,” Kermit, who Ruddy is trying to teach the repo business and who is probably smart but doesn’t have much common sense… and more.

It’s a fun read with a good plot, good characters, lots of laughs, and even a lovable if lazy dog. I will look for more books by this author.

Lou Berney — The Long and Faraway Gone

This novel is two separate stories about two separate people in the same time and place (Oklahoma City, 2012), who are on torturous journeys into their past lives.

Julianna received word that “a person of interest” in her sister’s disappearance is in town. Julianna was twelve when her sister disappeared. It starts her down the path she thought she had abandoned of trying to find out what became of her sister 25 years earlier.

Wyatt, a private investigator from Las Vegas returns to his hometown on a case. He left 25 years ago at the age of fifteen. Returning to Oklahoma City stirs memories and questions about an incident which still haunts him. Six people were murdered in a robbery of the movie theater where he worked. He was the only person in the theater left alive that night.

The book alternates between the two characters and two times (1986 and 2012). It’s almost two novels wrapped into one with various plots and subplots. Very unusual and very well written, it kept my interest from beginning to end.

Philip Donlay — Aftershock

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A USGS team is murdered as they are placing instruments on a volcano that is about to erupt. The photographer accompanying them is abducted and held for ransom. She is the lifelong friend of Donovan Nash and of course he goes to the rescue.

The story is a fast-paced thriller set in Guatemala. Plenty of action in the middle of earthquakes, volcano eruptions, shootings, chases on land and in the air… It kept me reading. I liked the characters, tough and determined but with heart.

The thing that always amazes me about some novels, movies, and TV shows is the seemingly coincidental connections between characters and events from the past and present. This book is full of them. It appears everyone in the book, good and bad, is connected in some way to Donovan Nash’s past.

I’m not complaining. I’ve been known to write a few such instances into my own books. J

M.P. Cooley — Ice Shear

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Upstate New York is cold in winter, and Ms. Cooley makes you feel it. It makes me want to go curl up in a blanket in front of a fireplace to warm up, even though I’m reading here in sunny Florida. The story begins with the discovery of a body impaled on the ice at the bottom of a frozen waterfall. Ice Shear is a mystery that keeps you interested from beginning to end. The protagonist, June Lyons, is a local police officer, ex FBI, and single mother in a small town. Cooley’s characters are diverse and interesting, her plot twists and turns, and her settings make you believe you are there.

This is a first novel by Ms. Cooley. I can’t wait for her next.