Saturday, June 4, 2016

My Girl, by Jack Jordan

This is a disturbing book to review because the protagonist seems to be too far gone emotionally to ever make a good choice again.  When the book opens Paige Dawson is a drug dependent alcoholic who is broken by the heart breaking losses she has endured.  Ten years ago her beloved daughter disappeared and was presumed dead after her chopped off arm is found in the river. And much more recently she discovered her husband's body in their home, apparently a suicide victim.
She spurns the help offered by her mother-in-law and is not moved by the bail outs she receives from time to time from her brother and her father.

She spends some time in jail, and about the time one thinks her situation can't get any worse, it gets a lot worse. When she realizes other members of her family are in perhaps more danger than she is, she begins at last to scheme and plan to save them and herself, but by then the situation may be too far gone for her sacrifices to make a difference... but at least she is sober enough at last to try.

The disturbing use of young girls for sexual gratification is too graphic and crude for me in one instance, and too disgusting in another, but this book is supposed to be dark, and evil certainly looms large. Unfortunately, the characters who are the most evil are a doctor and a clergyman, which is a downer, too, even when the headlines tell us this kind of evil is out there.

I received an e-copy of the book courtesy of NetGalley in exchange for a review.

The Woman In Cabin 10, by Ruth Ware

Ruth Ware has created a mystery in a closed setting that is indeed perplexing to the protagonist Laura Blacklock, who hears a late night commotion in the cabin next door, hears the veranda door sliding open and the ominous splash which follows.  She thinks she has seen a body floating just below the surface of the North Sea, but it almost instantly disappears.. But the most ominous thing she sees when she leans around the barrier between her deck and cabin 10's, is a large smear of blood on the glass door.

Laura is concerned about the young woman in cabin 10 whom she had met briefly earlier in the day, so much so that she calls the cruise liner's head of security.  But he assures Laura that there is not a passenger in that cabin and there has never been,  Furthermore, he reminds Laura that she has been drinking that evening and might be imagining something that never actually occurred.

The reader is all too aware of the anxiety, the abundance of alcohol and the pills she takes for the anxiety attacks, so maybe she isn't the most reliable witness.

Laura, a travel writer for a British publication, is on the maiden voyage of this boutique cruise liner, actually more of a large yacht, only because her boss is pregnant and unable to travel.  Her job is to become familiar with all the features of the luxury liner so that she can write reviews that help fill the ship with passengers for future voyages.  But Laura is still beside herself with new anxieties because her apartment was recently broken into and she was battered a bit by the assailant. And what's more, her ex boyfriend is also on the ship and is acting like he wants to rekindle the relationship.

The security chief realizes he has offended Laura with his bluntness and offers to introduce her to all the staff in the morning so that she can perhaps recognize the girl she says she met from Cabin 10.  Laura knows the girl is real, because she still has the mascara the girl gave her when she knocked on the girl's door and asked to borrow some.  But the suspense intensifies when Laura returns to her locked cabin and is unable to find the tube of mascara. No one seems to believe her, but most chilling is that there is no one missing from the staff or passenger roster.

In spite of her anxiety, plus the apparent lack of concern on the security chief's part, Laura continues to try to resolve the mystery, and soon winds up in more jeopardy than she has ever faced before.

I received this book courtesy of NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Missing, Presumed, by Susie Steiner

Previously published in the UK, Missing, Presumed, has a tentative US publication date in late June, 2016. I became aware of the book via NetGalley and subsequently received an e copy in exchange for a review.  I am delighted to tell you that if you are a fan of British police procedurals, and murder mysteries in general, this may be a read you need to be lining up for!

Susie Steiner is a skilled journalist, but I believe this is her first novel.  Her writing skills, her mastery of writing a variety of English dialects, and her careful placement of subtle clues might lead one to assume she is a seasoned novelist as well. There are a large number of characters in the story and that number increases as "the plot thickens."  The missing person is the elite and entitled daughter of two established and successful doctors.  Her name is Edith Hind, and we are destined to learn about Edith from her family, friends and acquaintances, since she is (duh,) missing.  A little blood, some broken glass in her kitchen, her front door open and obviously not secured, is what her fiance' finds when he returns to the apartment they share.

Steiner has created a cast of believable police detectives and support personnel.  They are all under the gun to find the missing person quickly, before pressure is applied from on high due to the importance of Edith's family and their contacts in high places.  The police are competent, but busy, especially as time passes and Edith's whereabouts remain unknown.  What they do unearth are some very unsavory details about her personal life and the lives of some friends and acquaintances.  

The detectives are exhausted, working long hours, exploring leads that lead to more questions, but not to Edith. They must begin to give attention to other cases which frustrates Edith's parents enormously.  And her girl friend who was with her the night she disappeared is slowly falling to pieces.  And it's not just that. 

Manon Bradshaw is the lead detective, a 39 year old single woman who is desperately wanting to become part of a couple.  Her online dating track record is disastrous and a real confidence killer.  Her younger partner Davy is a good cop with a sweet heart but a live in girl friend that Manon believes is all wrong for him.  So as time passes Manon and Davy begin to focus a little more on their "outside the job" lives.  Manon experiences some jolting personal disappointments, but returns totally refocused, to look again at the growing cast of suspects and the new details they have unearthed in Edith's history.  This complicated case just may be unraveled after all!

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Liar, Liar, by M.J. Arledge

Helen Grace has proved her worth as a Detective Inspector in Southampton, UK. Her skills at solving the riddles which lead to resolution of crime and murder in the city have been tested time and time again.  But this time there is an arsonist in Southampton, or maybe more than one, and the police have not a clue as to who, or why, blazes around the city are being started every night.  In Liar, Liar, by M.J. Aldridge, not just one, but two or three massive, sometimes fatal fires, and the police finally surmise that the first couple of fires are just decoy fires to draw away the fire department, thus assuring that the third fire will do maximum damage with minimal assistance.

Helen and her unit of detectives have several leads but no answers, and as usual the press is demanding answers, and worse, trying to do a little independent detective work.  DI Grace is also unsure of what her new boss is up to.  It seems like he wants to take over the case, but he assures her he appreciates her skills and only wants to support her.  She is concerned though, at what seem to be mixed signals, and ends up just feeling awkward around him.

In addition,she has a lot of personal issues left over from a very disturbed childhood, so she remains nervous that her private choices may lead to her downfall professionally, or worse, render her ineffective at solving a case because she has become the center of attention.  Her team of detectives have issues of their own, but work together to follow up on all the leads, frustratingly eliminating one suspect after another.  The fire victims are piling up but the suspect list is short and getting shorter.

In the meantime, more fires, more suspects, and slowly some of the clues from the various fires lead unexpectedly to evidence of other crimes, some surprising new suspects, and perhaps some elusive connections that only DI Grace can see. But will she be quick enough to save the last potential victim of this horrendous crime spree?

Liar, Liar has been previously published in the UK and the US edition should be on the shelves in June 2016.  Make your requests now at the library or your nearest book store. 

I received an e-copy of the book from NetGalley and am happy to share my opinion: You'll enjoy this if you are into suspense, twists, British police procedurals, and a protagonist who grows on you with each volume in this series, Liar, Liar being the 4th of the Detective Helen Grace Thrillers.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Two Days Gone, by Randall Silvis

Randall Silvis has created a rich and detailed tapestry of a murder mystery.  It is a horrific killing of a woman and two children. They are murdered in their beds.  The murders are described to the reader from the perspective of the killer, but the author does not tell us who the perpetrator of this awful crime is.  The victims are the wife and children of a well known, much  admired professor in a small college town.  The bodies are discovered by the wife's parents the next morning.  Their son-in-law is nowhere to be found.

Police inquiries uncover a couple of neighbors who have seen a man in a hoodie who sounded like it might have been the professor, walking along the road very early that morning; one of them said he was carrying something long and shiny; it might have been a knife.

When this information reaches Sgt. Ryan DeMarco, he insists on taking leadership in the search for the missing professor.  It isn't just a missing person, possibly a missing murder suspect to DeMarco.  He has spent some time with the professor, also a successful writer of fiction, and along with discussing police procedural details, the two men discover that they have the beginnings of a solid friendship.

Silvis has created complex and imperfect characters in both these protagonists...the hunter and the hunted.  Thomas Huston is able to elude the police, though a very intense search of the area, through the forest and around the lake, takes place. The reader sees through Huston's eyes in one chapter and through DeMarco's the next.  It is to the credit of the remarkable skills of Randall Silvis' slow and steady unveiling of details that the reader is not sure who killed the family until way into the saga.

We find that DeMarco, a man who drinks too much and has failed at marriage and sustained relationships with women, is nevertheless an excellent sleuth and analyst of the various facts that are slowly revealed to him through solid detective work.  He is enlightened by one of Huston's students, which leads him to the draft of Huston's latest novel. That gives him more insight into what Huston might have been thinking and doing in the time leading up to the crime. He interviews other professors and students in the English Department which also sheds light on strained relationships among faculty members.  Could professional jealousy be involved somehow?

Silvis is great at creating suspense as well as complex characters, both major and minor players in the story.  The closure in both their stories is tension-filled, exciting and satisfying for the most part.  This book is due out early in January 2017, so get on those reading lists early...it is a soul satisfying novel that you will want to be discussing with your book reading buddies.

Shiver Me Letters, by June Sobel, illustrated by Henry Cole

Good illustrations, and what kid doesn't want to learn along with the pirates!  What they are learning is that they need lots more letters than "RRR!" With that tough captain, they won't stop til they've found them all!
Fun Parent/Child reading recommended for the 4-6 year old crowd...try it with your precocious younger ones too.  It's habit forming!

Tainted Tokay (The Winemaker Detective Series #11), by Jean-Pierre Alaux & Noel Balen, translated from French by Sally Pane

Le French Book has favored the English language readers with yet another mystery translated from the French by Sally Pane.  Authors Jean-Pierre Alaux and Noel Balen are Frenchmen who are passionate about dining, wine and a good mystery.  They developed the concept for a mystery series featuring a thoughtful wine connoisseur who can always ferret out the resolution of the myriad mysteries that come up in the grape-growing countries of Europe.

Tainted Tokay incorporates two mysteries (three if one counts the crisis in the vineyards of Chateau Blanchard,) which demand resolution in two locations at the same time.  Benjamin Cooker has made his reputation as a wine consultant and as author of a best selling guide book on wine. He is invited by his publisher to cruise the Danube, highlighted by a visit to the Tokaji wine making region. But just as he and his wife are prepping to leave, his lab director in Bordeaux is victimized by an unknown mugger and will be out of commission at a particularly busy time in the lab.

But, not to worry, he is told by his right hand man Virgile Lanssien, who assures Benjamin that he can take care of the lab and watch over Alexandrine de La Palussiere as she recuperates.

The plot gets complicated on both fronts quickly and Benjamin is dealing with murder and deceit on the cruise while Virgile is dealing with the mysterious Alexandrine...is the mugger really unknown to her, or is she protecting someone?  In this book we learn much more about Alexandrine's past.

Virgile does some detective work, though he does keep Benjamin in the loop, perhaps because he is the boss, but also because his insights, though offered long distance, may help Virgile move forward on the home front.  In and around Budapest, however, the Cookers are dealing with the awkward realization that his publisher/host is traveling with a much younger woman who is probably not who she represents herself to be, and an agreeable but aggressive young tour guide, who may be part of a criminal gang out to fleece the unsuspecting tourists, or maybe just a charming waif who has chanced upon a way to make an honest living via tips from tourists.

I received an e-copy of the book in exchange for a review from Le French Book and NetGalley.

So, two mysteries in two countries, both involving danger and deceit, but coupled with really good meals to enjoy along the way.  An easy, quick and enjoyable read!