Category Archives: mystery

Sara Paretsky — Dead Land

I’ve only read one other Paretsky novel, Shell Game, which I gave three stars—middle of the road. With Dead Land, I connected with the protagonist, V.I. (Vic) Warshawski, and found her determined and focused on solving the mysteries surrounding friends and family. Previously I found her too angry at the world, scattered in her investigation and her life, and making foolish mistakes. With this story, she seems to have reason behind her decisions, even when her moves are reckless and dangerous. She isn’t filled with anger and even has a sense of humor.

A side character, Coop, is interesting. Even though we see little of him, he’s a major character in the story. I love his dog, Bear.

Even though it twists and turns and has some almost unbelievable connections, the plot of Dead Land makes sense, where Shell Game didn’t. Paretsky connects greed and corruption in Chicago politics with greed and corruption in Chili, all revolving around a famous woman musician, first homeless then missing on the streets of Chicago. She’s another major character we see little of, but we learn a lot about her.

The settings in Chicago and Kansas are both well covered, making me feel the heat in the streets and the muddy rain in the flooded fields.

Although a bit too long, I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

William Kent Krueger — Sulfur Springs

This novel gives us a look at the mess at our southern border. Cork O’Connor and his new wife, Rainy, go to Arizona to find her son Peter, who is involved with a group trying to help refugees from Central America. Every time they get a lead on where to look for him, the drug lords and/or the lawmen appear. Who is tipping them off?

A well-written story with a good plot and engaging characters. The coverage of the drug wars and the immigrants escaping through the border wall with Mexico keeps tension high.

Only the second Krueger novel I’ve read, both are about Cork’s children or step-children. He has an interesting family.

William Kent Krueger — Desolation Mountain

I would call this a character-driven, political intrigue novel. It’s my first foray into a William Kent Krueger book. I found some of the characters interesting, but not all. Cork O’Connors’ son Stephen, who has visions, is struggling to know who he is. More than a hundred-year-old “healer” Henry is in touch with the world and the spirits. Bo is a very conflicted character. Cork’s young grandchild (toddler?) Waaboo has far too much insight. But Cork worries his way through the story, and there’s no character growth, except possibly that he learns to accept that Henry can take care of himself. Some of the minor characters are interesting, but most are background noise—especially the women.

The plot is a bit over the top. It jumps around a lot, and people keep chasing around trying to find out what’s happening and to save people in trouble. Then toward the end, we get a lengthy explanation from the villain when there’s no reason for him to be telling it.

The story kept me reading to the end, so I give it three stars.

Heather Graham — The Stalking

The story mixes a stew of many genres—mystery, paranormal (ghosts), FBI agents, serial killer, and romance. It also throws in some New Orleans culture and history for a bit of spice. But it could use some editing. The dialog sometimes drags, the characters are a bit flat (almost everyone is beautiful), and I guessed the villains early in the book.

The Stalking is the first novel I’ve read by Heather Graham. I wouldn’t go out of my way to find more. But I did enjoy the quick light read.

Lars Kepler — The Rabbit Hunter

My first taste of Lars Kepler, I found The Rabbit Hunter a dark and grisly novel, too much so at times. I mostly enjoyed the plot, but it did get sidetracked from time to time, with issues not necessary for the story. The characters held my interest, but the two main ones were thinly sketched. Maybe because they’ve been around through several books. More effort was spent on the chef and his son, and the killer.

The pace moved fairly slow in the beginning, probably because either the authors or the translator (English translation) wrote too much passive, not active. It picked up as the story progressed. The ending was an obvious plug to try to get you to read the next book.

I always find it fascinating when two or more writers collaborate. This husband and wife team work together seamlessly.

Harlan Coben — The Boy From the Woods

Wilde, who was found living in the woods thirty-some years ago and has no memory of how he got there or where he came from, makes an intriguing character. He lives off the grid in an Ecocapsule home in the woods, with extreme security. He has little social contact in his life, except for the family (son, wife, and mother) of David, who befriended Wilde when they were boys, and Wilde lived in the woods. David died in an automobile accident.

Hester Crimstein, David’s mother and a high profile lawyer and TV personality in her 70s, is another interesting character. She’s a small feisty bombshell. All the characters are well defined; most have good and bad sides to their lives and personalities.

The plot centers around Wilde and Hester searching for two missing children. Are they kidnapped or runaways?

There are several underlying themes in this book—political scandal, teen peer pressure, bullying, innocent man in prison, looking for lost family, and more. Cohen weaves it altogether seamlessly.

This is the first Harlan Cohen novel. I will look for more.

Emily Brightwell — Mrs. Jeffries Delivers the Goods

A pleasant, light, cozy Victorian mystery, with likeable characters. A quick easy read when you don’t want any substance in a novel. But I found it very repetitive and I solved the murder very early in the story. Having the inspector’s household staff and friends doing all the investigating is a fun idea. But keeping their discoveries secret from him, only fed to him through Mrs. Jeffries and his constable, seems a bit far-fetched.

This is my first read in what appears to be a very long series.

Dervla McTiernan — The Scholar

Irish DS Cormac Reilly becomes personally involved in a murder case when his girlfriend, Dr. Emma Stone, discovers the body of a girl near the Darcy Therapeutics lab where she works as a researcher. The victim is tentatively identified as Carline Darcy, granddaughter of John Darcy, billionaire owner of the largest pharmaceutical company in Ireland. But Carline is found alive and well in her apartment.

The plot is twisted and engaging, although we know half of the connections and motives by the middle of the story. I did find Cormac’s jumping to the right or wrong conclusions so quickly a little disconcerting. Everyone has secrets, even Cormac and Emma.

It’s a good police procedural. Characters are likable with enough problems in their lives to keep them interesting. I’m not sure why the series is labeled the “Cormac Reilly” series; Detective Carrie O’Halloran has an almost equal role in this novel. But this is the first book by McTiernan I’ve read.

I will look for more books by McTiernan.

Lee Child — Past Tense

I believe Lee Child has a subtle sense of humor in his writing. It feels like he thoroughly enjoys writing Reacher stories, making the unbelievable believable, letting this giant of a man wander across the country taking out all the bad guys in his path, and painting a picture of a country he loves.

I won’t go into the plot of Past Tense. You can read about it in almost every review. But I liked it.

I’ve read most or all of the Reacher books and enjoyed every one of them.

Liz Moore — Long Bright River

The title of this novel should be Long Dark River instead of Long Bright River. There is hardly a bright moment in the 500 pages. (It could be cut to about 300 without losing anything.) But it’s well written, enough to keep me reading through the whole book.

There are two plots. One is a family story about two sisters, a cop, Mickey, and an addict, Kacey. They haven’t been on speaking terms for years, but Mickey keeps an eye out for her sister. When she doesn’t see Kacey on the streets for several weeks, she assumes her sister is missing, possibly dead from an overdose or a serial killer who is loose in the neighborhood.

The serial killer is the second plot, the mystery. I think it’s supposed to be the main plot since the book is classified as a mystery/thriller (I’d call it “women’s fiction” or a family novel), but the serial killer thread takes a backseat to Mickey’s search for her sister. She’s not a very good cop. She neglects her duties, breaks rules, believes and follows up rumors, and finally gets suspended.

The first person narrator, Mickey, isn’t likable. She’s depressed, insecure, terrible decision-maker, and she doesn’t connect with people. The author spends far too much time in Mickey’s head and switches to her past in some chapters, which probably isn’t necessary. I wanted to like her but never connected.

One thing that irritates me about the writing is the use of the M-dash instead of quotes for dialog. It’s distracting. I don’t know what the author is trying to prove.

There’s not an ounce of humor in this story.