Category Archives: character

Peter Swanson — Before She Knew Him

We know who the killer is from the beginning of this book, but that doesn’t spoil the story. Hen and her husband Lloyd have moved into a new neighborhood in a small Massachusetts town. She reluctantly attends a party and sees a trophy in neighbor Matthew’s office that she believes is connected to a murder she obsessively researched a few years earlier.

She tells the police, but due to a history of mental problems, they distrust her credibility. Lloyd even doubts her. Hen and Matthew have conversations where he admits he has murdered people.

The novel is a suspenseful psychological thriller. Swanson held my interest throughout, even though I suspected the ending twist.

Lisa Gardner — Look for Me

Lisa Gardner creates interesting characters and manages to keep them entertaining through multiple books. I can read them out of order, which I did, and still enjoy each book.

The plot of Look for Me is twisted, with multiple suspects for the murder of a family. One daughter, Roxy Baez, survives because she is walking the dogs. Then she disappears. Boston police detective D.D. Warren looks for her with the help of survivor turned vigilante, Flora Dane. Is Roxy running from fear, or is she the shooter?

Another excellent tale by Ms. Gardner.

Nick Petrie — Tear it Down

Peter Ash goes to Memphis to help Wanda Wyatt, who has been receiving strange threats since purchasing an old house and moving in. When he arrives, he finds someone has driven a dump truck into the front of Wanda’s house. While trying to track down who might have done it, A young thief, a homeless street musician, steals Peter’s pickup truck. Peter decides to help the young musician, too.

I like Peter, even though he often makes stupid and risky decisions. (He always gets out of the dangerous situations where these decisions lead him.) All of the characters in the story are interesting, even the bad guys. Plenty of bad guys populate the book—the young boys, who rob a jewelry store; a farmer and his psycho brother, who are trying to drive Wanda out of her house; the gang boss of the Memphis drug world and his close associates, who are chasing the boy that stole Peter’s truck; and more. Even Peter and his friend Lewis are not always on the right side of the law.

Suspend your disbelief, and you will enjoy the story.

Stieg Larsson — The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

I intended to read this book years ago and finally got to it. I won’t go into great detail. There are plenty of reviews available with so much detail you almost don’t need to read the book.

There are two plots. The story begins with Mikael Blomkvist’s conviction for libel for an article he wrote about billionaire businessman Wennerström. This plot line stays in the background until late in the book. Mikael is then hired by Vander, another rich man, to write a family history as a cover to find out what happened to his granddaughter, Harriet, who disappeared almost forty years earlier. This is the plot that consumes most of the book.

The book covers many subjects including business greed and crime, abuse of women, twisted family relationships, journalism ethics, Swedish Nazism, computer hacking, and more.

There are also two main characters: Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander, (the girl with the dragon tattoo). Lisbeth doesn’t get involved with the investigation until about halfway through the story, but we follow what she is doing before that. Larsson gives us great detail about both of these very different characters.

I enjoyed the book from the beginning, even though the first half was rather slow with too much detail about clothes, meals, and day-to-day minutia. Mikael spends a lot of time on the family history and very little on the missing girl until way into the book.

The climax of the story occurs about three-quarters of the way through. The rest of the book ties up all the loose ends, including the first plot.

Larsson’s writing kept me interested from beginning to end.

James Lee Burke — The New Iberia Blues

Burke writes vivid settings. He brings you into the bayous of Louisiana and activates all your senses—sight, sound, smell, taste, touch—and more. He laments what greed and politics is doing to his beloved land.

His characters (good guys and bad guys) have depth. But protagonist, Dave Robicheaux, has to be in his eighties and is still playing cop and lusting after women in their twenties. Dream on, Burke. A bit less of Robicheaux’s anger and feeling sorry for himself would make him more likable and move the story along.

The plot keeps you guessing about the villain, who is ritualistically killing members of the community using a tarot theme. But I did suspect the killer early on.

Dennis Lehane — The Drop

A very dark tale set in the underbelly of Boston. Lehane paints very vivid portraits of his characters, some of whom you wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley. There is a nice story of a man and his dog woven through the novel plus the building of a romance between two lonely people.

The author is an excellent writer holding my interest in the story and all the unsavory characters.

Haylen Beck — Here and Gone

Here and Gone kept me on the edge of my seat throughout the whole book. What would you do if a sheriff in the middle of nowhere pulled you over with a trumped-up charge and took your children away? Then he claims there were no children in your car. No one believes you—state police, FBI, media all think you have killed your children.

Unlike many of today’s thrillers that are filled with violence and farfetched scenarios, this is an intense, believable psychological thriller.

Lisa Gardner — Never Tell

Never Tell is a book of secrets told from three women’s POVs. Evie Carter finds her husband dead—murder or suicide—picks up the gun and shoots his computer. Homicide detective D.D. Warren knows Evie as a girl who sixteen years ago “accidentally” shot and killed her own father. D.D.’s civilian informant, Flora Dane, sees a picture of Evie’s dead husband and recognizes him as someone she met while a kidnap victim of Jacob Ness.

The three distinctive characters are well-defined and interesting, revealing secrets as the story progresses and uncovering other secrets about Evie’s husband, father, and mother, and about Flora’s kidnapper. Peripheral characters are also distinct and interesting. The setting is in Boston, my favorite city. The complex plot kept me guessing.

An excellent novel by a first-rate author.

Gytha Lodge — She Lies in Wait

Seven teenagers go camping and only six return. A massive search doesn’t turn up Aurora, at fourteen, the youngest of the group. Thirty years later, her body is found in a hollow beneath a tree along with remnants of a stash of drugs.

The timeline alternates between current and the night of the murder. Point-of-view shifts between cops and campers, both present and thirty years prior. The author does a good job of switching time and POV, and I didn’t find it confusing.

Lodge paints good pictures of each of her many characters—four police and the six campers (seven with Aurora)—each character unique. She even adds a couple of extras into the mix. It may be a little overload on character development.

She keeps us guessing about the murderer, but I did have an idea of who it was early in the story. The plot could be a little slow for some readers, but I found the details of police procedural interesting.

A good first novel. I look forward to the next book in the series with DCI Jonah Sheens.

Walter Mosley — John Woman

Strange but captivating—but that’s true of most literary novels that hold my interest (many don’t). The story is philosophical and the plot is complicated, so I won’t try to describe it except to say John Woman has an interesting interpretation of history. If you like to read a book that makes you think, this is a good candidate.

Mosley is known for his mystery/crime/detective stories with Easy Rawlins, Fearless Jones, or others. This is the second standalone literary novel of Mosley’s that I’ve read, and I thoroughly enjoyed both.