Tag Archives: setting

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.

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!

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.

Kristin Hannah — The Nightingale

The Nightingale grabs you in the gut—powerful writing!

Hannah takes you on an emotional journey through the German occupation of France in World War II. She follows two sisters with contrasting personalities through horrible events and upheavals in their lives and the world around them. Vianne tries to accept the hardships and follow the rules to protect her daughter. Isabelle resists in every way that she can. She creates an escape route through the Pyrenees, leading numerous downed Allied airmen to safety in Spain.

Usually when I enjoy a book, I read into the wee, small hours of the night. With The Nightingale, I found I needed to stop often to escape the pull of this story. Hannah is an excellent storyteller. She does everything right—the historical research, the characters, the setting, the reactions of the women living through this terrifying time.

Hannah’s novel is probably the best writing I’ve found in a very long time.

An interview with Kristin Hannah about The Nightingale.

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.

Peter Cawdron —Retrograde

The scientific settlement on Mars receives word that nuclear war has broken out on Earth, then communications are cut. The community on Mars consists of four modules — U.S., Chinese, Russian, and Eurasians (from various countries). They start pointing fingers and blaming each other’s countries for starting the war. It appears that the module leaders are lying to each other. Then things begin to go wrong in the settlement. But Liz is determined to get everyone working together.

Cawdron paints a fantastic picture of Mars, both topside and in the tunnels where the scientists have built their settlement. His characters are believable, and their reactions to the disaster at home and the hardships imposed by the red planet are realistic.

For those who like hard science fiction, this is a good one. As stated by SpaceX engineer Dr. Andrew Rader in the Afterword of the novel, “…there are no scientific breakthroughs required for the human exploration of or settlement on Mars — only engineering effort and widespread dedication to the goal.” With a few exceptions, all of the technology and science in Retrograde is possible, if not now, in the near future.

Mars

Daniel Suarez — Change Agent

Singapore
Singapore

Kenneth Durand is an Interpol Agent chasing genetic crime in 2045. He is shutting down labs that create designer children for a price. Marcus Wyckes heads the cartel at the top of the black lab food chain. Otto, the “mirror man,” created to survive human disasters and repopulate the earth if humanity is wiped out, hates humans, and is Wyckes right-hand man. He injects Durand with Wyckes’ DNA, expecting Durand to die and be identified as Wyckes. But Durand lives through the DNA change.

We meet all sorts of characters, good and bad, as Durand travels through the underworld of genetics trying to find a way to return to his original self. The setting for the book is fascinating, starting in Singapore, traveling through Malaysia, Thailand, and Myanmar. Suarez takes us through cities, farm lands, and jungles. He extends today’s technology into the future with interesting devices and transportation. The author also covers many possibilities, promising and terrible, from the results of “editing” DNA in plants, animals, and humans.

Suarez is a NYT bestselling author, but this is the first of his books I’ve read. I could be tempted to read more.

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.