Tag Archives: fiction

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.

Lisa Gardner — When You See Me

Hikers find a girl’s bones off the Appalachian Trail in northern Georgia. They turn out to be the remains of a girl gone missing 15 years earlier, a suspected victim of dead serial kidnapper Jacob Ness. The incident brings together a team of crime investigators, led by FBI agent Kimberly Quincy. She recruits a group from Boston who have been tracking Ness’s crimes—police sergeant D.D. Warren, civilian kidnap-survivor Flora Dane, and Flora’s sidekick, computer guru Keith Edgar.

The book combines police procedural and thriller. The first part, mostly procedural and introduction to the characters if you haven’t followed the series, is a bit boring if you’ve followed Gardner’s novels. The pace picks up as it goes along, and the crimes and criminals pile up. The last few chapters are action-packed. The story pace feels like a train slowly chugging out of the station, picking up some speed as it goes through the city, then turning into high-speed rail.

The plot is chilling. Hopefully no real towns exist like the one in this story. Gardner’s excellent writing kept me reading even through the early slow chapters.

The pace and the proliferation of characters keep my rating at 4 stars, not 5. I would prefer fewer POV characters. Four women carry the story, each picking up separate pieces of information—Kimberly, D.D., Flora, and a girl without a name or voice who is held captive by the bad guys.

Even with these flaws, When You See Me is an excellent read. I recommend it, and I recommend that if you haven’t read other Lisa Gardner books…do it now!

P.J. Tracy — Ice Cold Heart

Not having read the previous books in the Monkeewrench series, this was a standalone for me. It was well written, and I enjoyed it.

The characters, good and bad, are interesting, some with unique backgrounds and personalities, but there are too many to follow. I was almost to the end of the story before I had them all sorted out. It probably would have helped to read earlier books in the series first. But they were warm, sometimes humorous, and the baby in the office at Monkeewrench added insight into some of the characters.

I won’t summarize the story; it’s covered many times in reviews. The plot had many twists and turns, but I feel it overdoes the coincidences and connections between crimes, like cop shows on TV. I can’t believe that happens often in real life.

There were several bad guys in this story, and I spotted them all early before they were revealed even though some were painted as good or harmless. But there is a twist at the end.

“You ever notice that when it’s this cold, snow doesn’t crunch, it squeaks?” The bitter cold Minneapolis setting made me shiver, reminding me of my many years living in the north. I’m glad I now live in Florida.

Overall a good read. I would recommend it, but with the caveat that you read other books in the series first.

Erin Morgenstern — The Night Circus

Ms. Morgenstern writes beautiful pictures with her creative imagination. This is a novel for the senses.

Not a particular fan of fantasy, I picked up The Night Circus because I thoroughly enjoyed her second novel, The Starless Sea. I see there are mixed reviews for this story; people seem to love it or hate it. The plot moves slowly, but the author writes beautifully. You need to immerse yourself in the sensations of the circus to enjoy it.

The book is magic.

Catriona McPherson — Scot Free

I’ve been looking for some humor, and in Scot Free, I found it. The last book I picked up to read that was supposed to be humorous didn’t do it for me, but this one makes me laugh.

I read some reviews where McPherson fans were disappointed in this novel, but since I haven’t read any of her previous books, I had no expectations. Her characters are ridiculous and outlandish, and I love them. The residents of the Last Ditch Motel, where Lexi ends up entirely by accident, are unbelievable but loveable and laughable.

Lexi’s descriptions of California life from the point of view of a recent immigrant from Scotland are delightful. The plot is silly and unbelievable but entertaining.

Linwood Barclay — Elevator Pitch

Elevator Pitch is the first novel I’ve read by Linwood Barclay. I found the plot intriguing. Why would anyone kill people by messing with elevators? Is it just to terrorize the people of New York, one of the most vertical cities in the world? I predicted the villain early in the story but was led astray a few times before my guess was confirmed at the end. But I never guessed the “why” until revealed at the conclusion.

Barclay’s character portrayals are varied and interesting; the main ones are a reporter with an ax to grind, her daughter, two NYC police detectives, the mayor of New York, his son, and his “I take care of everything” staff member.

Although the book kept my interest throughout, it could use some editing, and it could lose about 200 pages. Lots of unneeded detail slowed the pace in the middle. I have a habit of skipping to the last few chapters of a book when I get bored, but this one kept my interest enough to keep me from doing that. I read all 600 plus pages.

I will look for more of Barclay’s writing.

Ann Cleeves — The Long Call

A police procedural mystery with beautiful coastal England settings and a mix of interesting characters.

The plot includes the murder of an apparently homeless man and two kidnappings of Down syndrome women. Detective Matthew Venn believes they are somehow related. All the victims have connections to his husband Jonathon’s service center, The Woodyard, which houses an artist’s colony, a counseling service, and a center for the learning disabled.

The author’s characters are varied and usually believable. But I found DI Venn a bit too insecure for a detective leading a murder investigation. His constable, Jenn Rafferty, is lively and smart. Ross, another member of Venn’s team, is young and impatient.

Cleeves’s description of North Devon brings to life the sights, smell, and sounds of the villages, countryside, and the coastline.

The story held my interest throughout. The pace is somewhat slow in the middle but interesting enough to keep me reading. It picks up toward the end.

The Long Call is the second novel I’ve read by Ann Cleeves. I’ll look for more of her books.

Erin Morgenstern — The Starless Sea

The Starless Sea is a story about the love of stories.

The main plot lies mostly underground in a world filled with stories—in books and paintings and sculptures and even in people. Zachary Ezra Rawlings finds an uncatalogued book with no listed author in the library. The book contains a story about him when as a young boy he missed the opportunity of opening a door painted on a wall. But the book is older than Zachary. How could the author know his story? His search for the source of the book leads him to the labyrinth of stories lying under his feet.

Morgenstern’s novel is filled with unrelated stories, fables, fairytales, and myths that intertwine and finally connect at the end of the book. These individual stories contain romance, loss, time and fate, humor…

I’m not usually a fan of fantasy, but I was absorbed in this book and Morgenstern’s excellent writing. She has a fantastic imagination.

Dave Eggers — The Parade

The Parade is a psychological, political, literary novella about two anonymous contractors hired to pave a road in an unknown civil-war-torn country. Two opposite personalities travel from the poor south to the city in the north. The author tells the story from “Four’s” point of view. His goal is to follow the rules, don’t interact with the locals, get the job done on time for the parade, and go home. We only see “Nine” through “Four’s” perspective, as a happy-go-lucky rule-breaker who pays little attention to the job and spends his time mixing with the locals, partying, drinking, sleeping with the women, and giving away company property. “Nine” is interested in what’s happening to the country, its people, and what the road will mean to them.

I would give the book four stars, except that I guessed the twist at the end from the very beginning. Maybe I have a twisted mind.

Jonathan de Shalit — A Spy in Exile

The novel felt like several stories stuffed into one book with no real connection except Ya’ara Stein, an ex-agent of Israel’s Mossad, who is training a group of unlikely recruits to become a black ops unit. There is no overall plot, unless you count the random chapters about the sculptor, which doesn’t tie into the story until the end. There is a story with a plot in the first half of the book, but that ended in chapter thirty-something out of seventy-eight.

Lots of time is spent on character development of the unlikely recruits. The main protagonist, Ya’ara, is the least likeable—cold and cruel.

Slow paced, the story didn’t flow. I wouldn’t call it a thriller.