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In The Sticks by Joel Jurrens

Publisher: Wings e-press Inc     

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

The e-book industry is still going through its winnowing out phase, rather like the hard-print industry did in the late 1800s when mass printing became affordable for everyone.  During that era there was a tidal wave of print, much of it rubbish.  Little from that era survives and paradoxically some of the worst books ever written now command huge prices from collectors.

There is little chance of bad e-books disappearing due to the nature of the World Wide Web; once something is out there, it stays around forever. Unless civilisation as we know it collapses, bad e-books are immortal.

All of which is a prologue to saying that there are also many fine e-books in existence; and “In the Sticks” is one of them.  Author Jurrens has many years’ experience in law enforcement, and it shows in the way he handles the daily operations of the Cossack County Sheriff’s department.  You feel you know the town and the job that veteran police officer Lyle Hoffman does almost from the first page.  You can empathise with his reaction at the murder scene of Angel Geode, tortured and killed in her home: which of us wouldn’t toss our cookies at such a sight, but would we have the presence of mind to get well away from the crime scene before letting go?

At first there seems no reason for Angel to have been killed so horribly.  A big city detective is sent to help the hayseeds solve the murder.  After some initial reservations, Lyle adapts to working as Detective Benson’s sidekick.  Benson is an organised, experienced man with a razor-sharp mind, but even he can’t pry out much-needed background information from the folks at Homeland Security.   He knows that Angel Geode once ran with a gang of seriously bad bikers, and that a large sum of money went with her when she dropped out of sight.  What brought her to the one-horse town of Calvin?  While Benson goes back to Chicago to track down some leads, Lyle takes his own way of investigating and fairly soon decides that tempting though the biker gang theory is, it isn’t correct: Angel died at the hands of a very clever serial killer.

During his investigating, Lyle comes to a dreadful realisation about his ex-wife and the incident that led to their divorce.  It nearly destroys him and you wonder if the book will end with one of those all too common real-life denouements of a cop in a car with a gun in his mouth.  Fortunately you don’t have long to worry about this, as the pace of the book in the latter chapters pulls you along so fast you get to the end before you realise it’s coming.

My only complaint, and that’s really too strong a term, is that there’s a lot of flashback in the early chapters about Lyle’s courtship and divorce.  While it’s important to set the scene and appreciate what’s made Lyle the loner he is, there was quite a large chunk of material that might have been more digestible in smaller bites.

If you’ve never read an e-book before due to reservations about the genre, “In the Sticks” would be a good one to start with.  Before you’ve read a dozen pages you’ll be so involved you’ll forget you’re reading a device rather than a paper and board book.

 

 

 

The Lover by Laura Wilson

Publisher: Felony & Mayhem Press       

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

The Second World War is rapidly receding from memory and becoming a both place and time unknown by most readers first hand.  Older people will be surprised to realise that something so huge, that affected their early lives and the lives of everyone they knew so strongly, is now “history”.

Of course it wasn’t history to the people who lived it, it was just ‘how things are’—and for a lot of people in London, things were pretty bad.  Bombs, inadequate food, blackouts, missing friends and relatives—and for this corner of London, a killer on the loose.  One after another, young women are being found murdered and mutilated.  The police are already stretched to the limit, and appear very little in this story.  Rather than the police procedure of investigation and pursuit of the killer, the story mainly focuses on the people of the neighbourhood: those who find the bodies, and the friends and associates of the girls. 

The story is told in a series of short chapters, from the different points of view of all the main characters, including the killer.  Step by step a number of small clues fall into place as the war rages on around the neighbourhood.  Buildings vanish, people are blown to bits quite literally, neighbours band together and cope somehow, and all the while the killer carries out his awful work.  At last René Tate, one of the main characters, faces the killer in her own kitchen—but who is there left to help her?

This is a grim book, but with puddles of unexpected sunshine through it, rather like one of those summer storms that comes and goes.  Author Wilson has done her homework and recreates the London of The Blitz and the lives of its people believably.

 

 

 

The Complaints by Ian Rankin

Publisher: Reagan Arthur

Reviewed by Ray Palen, New Mystery Reader

In 2007, Scottish novelist Ian Rankin released EXIT MUSIC --- the 18th and perhaps final novel in his long-running Inspector John Rebus series. He followed this up with a stand-alone novel in 2008, DOORS OPEN, that originated as a serial story featured in the New York Times.  This heist thriller was not nearly as accessible as Rankin’s Rebus novels and I became curious about what direction his career was taking.

With the release of his latest novel, THE COMPLAINTS, Ian Rankin embarks on a prospective new series.  This first novel in what may become another long-running series is immediately engaging and features a host of characters that are highly believable and instantly likeable.  The title of the novel comes from the name that the Scottish P.D. gives their internal affairs division.  To give the office its full title, they are the Complaints and Conduct group --- the cops who investigated other cops.

The lead character in the novel is Complaints officer, Malcolm Fox.  Fox is highly ethical and very fair and takes his role seriously.  He and his team, that include veteran Tony Kaye and young Joe Naysmith, are tasked with investigating a 15-year veteran of the Scottish police force by the name of Glen Heaton.  Additionally, a separate unit that works alongside the Complaints called CEOP (Child Exploitation and Online Protection), presents Fox and his team with another officer to investigate.  Apparently, a cop named Jamie Breck is under suspicion of the on-line stalking of children --- but no one can prove it.

As Fox and his team begin to move forward with their investigations, he is side-tracked when the boyfriend of his sister, Jude, is found murdered in the street.  Vince Faulkner was not Fox’s friend and he may very well have been physically abusing his sister --- a fact that is noticeable to the investigative unit that gets the case.  Led by an investigator named Giles, the police look into Malcolm Fox and his friends (including Tony Kaye) as possible suspects in the murder of Vince Faulkner.  Ironically, Jamie Breck is one of the officers also assigned to the case and he and Fox form an unusual bond.  Fox wants to find out from Breck exactly how much suspicion is raised about his alleged involvement in the murder while simultaneously allowing him insight into Breck’s background as a potential pedophile suspect.

Malcolm Fox is quickly placed in a precarious position as other cops do not like or trust him based on the fact that he works for the Complaints. Giles and his team would love to take Fox down a few pegs as a form of retaliation for the investigation they know he is conducting into their fellow officer, Glen Heaton.  Fox has an additional quandary in the fact that he grows to really like and respect Jamie Breck and begins to feel that the accusations made against him are completely false.

Due to their new-found alliance and the fact that there is a conflict of interest over the cases they are each involved in, the powers that be see fit to suspend Fox and Breck.  This severely impacts their ability to continue their investigations, but they recognize that the murder of Vince Faulkner may have its roots in several layers of organized crime in the area and they choose to move forward on their own to get to the people behind this tangled web of corruption.  Breck’s on-line skills, particularly his ability to navigate the virtual reality game called Quidnunc, gives him the uncanny advantage of utilizing his cyber prowess to aid in his and Fox’s personal investigations to clear both their names.

Though the novel gets a little muddy at times, particularly with keeping straight the myriad of characters involved in the Faulkner organized crime case, Rankin’s writing style and very accessible lead characters keep the narrative driving towards a highly satisfying conclusion.  Fans of his Rebus series can celebrate the arrival of Malcolm Fox, Jamie Breck and all of the Complaints team!

 

 

 

Fever Dream by Dennis Palumbo

Publisher: Poison Pen Press      

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

Being a trauma expert and consulting psychologist to the Pittsburgh police is a hard enough job when you don’t have any personal involvement.  Dr Daniel Rainaldi finds his new case is unexpectedly difficult when it turns out that the patient, bank robbery survivor Treva Williams, was once involved with Detective Eleanor Lowrey.  Treva is in a very fragile state, which isn’t helped when the robber who was thought to be dead at the bank shoot-out kidnaps her from her hospital bed.

Rainaldi chances on the scene in the hospital and by a great deal of luck saves both Treva and the young doctor whom the robber has also taken hostage—but the robber again escapes.  This doesn’t make the police look very competent, and the DA, Leland Sinclair, is angry that his own campaign to be the next state governor have taken a hit along with the police.  Sinclair’s ambitions know no bounds, and he wants Rainaldi on board the band wagon to lend credibility to his image.

Rainaldi has a lot of other work on hand, including comforting the friends of a young suicide victim who more and more looks like having been manipulated into taking the terminal step, and preventing contagion from the sad event spreading to other emotionally vulnerable people.  Rainaldi is also trying to find out what’s going on with Lowrey’s partner, the abrasive Sergeant Polk, who has been going missing in action far too often for his career’s own good.

The more Rainaldi considers the initial crime, the more the bank robbery doesn’t make sense.  Why would the robber shoot the only person in the bank who has the combination to the safe?  What happened to his confederate?  Was the bank manager really home sick, or was it a set-up to get him out of the picture? 

Mixed into a very convoluted plot and a lot of nail-biting confrontations is the developing relationship between Rainaldi and Lowrey; there are so many factors standing against it, yet there’s an undeniable attraction between them.

It’s a fast-moving story with complex plotting and some admittedly unlikely occurrences—but it’s fiction, after all.  If you accept that a consulting psychologist could have almost as many hair’s breadth escapes as Jason Bourne and still go to bed and sleep easily, you’ll enjoy it.  It’s another winner from Poisoned Pen Press.

 

 

The Feng Shui Detective Goes West by Nury Vittachi

Publisher: Felony and Mayhem Press     

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

What do you do if you are stuck with 180,000 highlighter pens filled with black ink and a tough guy whose business card proclaims him the only Indian member of the Chinese Mafia wants payment?

Obviously, you have to find a quick way to get the money.  You could rob a bank, with that plan’s inherent drawbacks, or, if you are a feng shui master like C F Wong, you can hire out your services.  Against his better judgment, but under considerable pressure from his young intern, Joyce McWhinnie, Wong accepts a job from the British Trade Commission, which wants to give its new airliner the best possible start in life. 

“Skyparc” is a luxurious travelling office building which allows those who can afford a ticket a chance to conduct business all the way from Asia to London and back again with no interruption of service.  Part of making Skyparc a success is ensuring that its feng shui is well-balanced.  The colours, placement of doors and furniture, orientation and other matters of the sort must all be right if Skyparc is to attract Asian business people.

Wong does not want to leave Singapore and fly to London, but the chance to pay off his debt can’t be ignored.  Wong and Joyce soon find themselves six miles high and in serious trouble: terrorists of some sort have set bombs in the plane and it now has no landing gear, plus there’s a fire in the tail section.  The only hope of salvation is to find a large lake to land on, but those are in short supply in Western China.  What’s needed is someone who knows more about this part of the world than the standard maps show—how fortunate C F Wong once spent a year living with his uncle in this very area!

The story has an interesting premise: if someone does develop a plane like Skyparc, it will probably rake in the money.  There are various subplots to the story, several of them involving members of the British royal family, some real, some made up.  There’s an exotic location, Singapore, but we don’t get much of the flavour of the place.  C F Wong speaks in intermittently broken English which became wearying to this reader’s mind’s ear.  Dialect can get in the way of content.  (The two Indian characters speak impeccable English.) And there’s a gratuitous un-funny scene with the Queen and Mr Wong that could have been left out.

The idea of a consulting feng shui master has a lot of possibilities; one would like to see what author Vittachi could do with the concept if he lets the humour flow naturally from the situations, avoids dragging in superfluous royal personalities and perhaps allows Mr Wong to speak English less like a character from an old Charlie Chan movie. 

 

 

 

Every Bitter Thing by Leighton Gage

Publisher: Soho Crime

Published by Dana King, New Mystery Reader

Every Bitter Thing is the fourth book in Leighton Gage’s Chief Inspector Mario Silva series. Gage is on to a good thing with Silva, and knows exactly what to do with it.

The book begins with two identical homicides, far apart, with nothing obvious to connect the two victims. These crimes move to the back burner while Silva investigates a murder with international political implications. Silva’s job as a federal inspector helps him to tie the three crimes together, though it’s not easy and Gage provides him no convenient coincidences. It’s all done through dogged police work: calling in favors, shoe leather, and an occasional help from the forensics team. This is no CSI sci-fi masquerading as crime fiction. Evidence techs have their role here, and it’s to support the real police.

The pattern is obvious to Silva; the motives are not. Worse, if Silva’s right about the victims’ connection, the killer is only about halfway through his list. Racing against time, Silva has political considerations to contend with, as well as his boss, whose prime investigatory talent is to appear on television to take credit for everything his team does.

It’s quite a team, too, spanning Brazil. This is the strength of Gage’s planning. Silva is an excellent character, more than capable of carrying a book on his own. He’s made even more effective through Gage’s willingness to employ a half dozen other cops, who all answer, sometimes indirectly, to Silva, allowing him to extend himself over a broader range without dominating the story. There’s a school of thought that says spreading the story among too many characters weakens it. Every Bitter Thing shows that school is badly mistaken.

The closest parallel to gage’s Brazilian feds may be Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct cops. Gage is a more workmanlike writer than McBain, lacking the occasional flights of understated virtuosity. This is not a rebuke; there’s a reason Ed McBain was a Grand Master. Gage knows the way to make an ensemble cast work is to show relationships between the cops, which will help to make the book  more a novel about cops than a mystery about a dead body, ho-hum. Each of his cops has a well-defined personality. They don’t all get along, and he trusts his readers enough to let the likes and dislikes unfold. The banter, and occasional sniping, between the cops makes the book sail by.

Gage trusts his reader with more than the characters. Little is explained as you go, so pay attention; all is made clear at the end, with minimal reaching. Every Bitter Thing isn’t just a first-rate mystery; it’s a first-rate book, and future efforts will be the subject of much anticipation.

 

 

Shortcut Man by P.G. Sturges

Publisher: Scribner       

Reviewed by Jim Sells, New Mystery Reader

If you have a tenant that won’t pay rent or leave, call Dick Henry. If you’ve got a contractor who did lousy work on your house, call Dick Henry. Just don’t look too closely at his methods, but he will get the job done. He is “The Shortcut Man.”

Dick Henry is former submariner and ex-cop. He had two children by a broken marriage and scraps out a living by solving problems with his partner Rojas - for a price. His girlfriend – for now – is Lynnette. Lynnette is a beautiful flight attendant with whom he enjoys a superficial, physical relationship.

Then things change. Dick is hired to tail a porno producer’s wife and find out if she is cheating. The change is that Dick finds out Lynnette is the producer’s wife and her name is really Judy. So, he must stage the death of her fictitious lover so that the death doesn’t become his own.

The story is great fun as it drags you through the seamy side of Southern California. Dick has a caustic wit with an eye for the human condition. Be warned that the language is rough and the sex explicit.

 

 

The Devil by Ken Bruen

Publisher: Minotaur Books

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Jack Taylor, Galway ex-PI, has certainly faced his share of demons; drugs, violence, and alcohol being the worst of them.  Or so he thought up until the day he met who perhaps might be the real devil in the flesh after an aborted trip to America.  Unfortunately, Jack initially treats the unsettling encounter with Mr. K in the airport bar as only that -  unsettling and annoying.  But when those close to him and those he would like to get close to begin to die horrible deaths, all of which in some way come back to the mysterious Mr. K, Jack is forced to revisit the encounter and what exactly he might have missed during their curious chat.  Could it be that Jack has finally met the one thing that can bring him down for good, or might this be his last chance at redemption by slaying the worst of all demons?

As usual, Bruen shares a tale that in its stark and dark beauty lays forth a man driven by his demons with suspense and pure guts.  Far from a lovely tale with a happily ever after ending, Bruen again forces the reader into questioning if Jack is even worth the challenge, a question that Jack himself seems unable to answer.  Some readers might want to knock off Jack Taylor for good, his obvious afflictions testing one’s tolerance.  However, for those with fortitude, it doesn’t take long to recognize Jacks’ compassion and drive for justice.  Again sharing the ambience of Ireland, this time not painted with such a love-filled brush as in the past, Bruen soars in this breathtaking tale of good vs.  evil.  Or rather, somewhat-not-so-bad vs. evil.       

 

 

A Lonely Death  by Charles Todd

Publisher: William Morrow            

Reviewed by Jim Sells, New Mystery Reader

Three men are murdered in nine days in a rural of area of England in 1920. The local police didn’t expect one murder much less three.  Scotland Yard is called and Inspector Ian Rutledge is called away just as he attends a war buddy’s funeral resulting from a suicide.

Rutledge is as troubled as his recently dead friend. He carries too many dead souls with him from World War I. One speaks to him regularly with advice and warnings as Rutledge goes through the daily routine-addressing victims of civilian crime.

Rutledge finds many more answers as he confronts the murder of  three and then four veterans. The murders are related only in the manner of death, an ID tag placed in their mouth like a war casualty and their common service to their country. As Rutledge struggles to make sense of the incidents, he called off the case for supposed misconduct.

Todd has once again crafted a masterpiece set in the remnants of a society torn apart by war.

 

 

 

Chosen by Chandra Hoffman

Publisher: Harper

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Several different narratives drive this emotionally complex and darkly textured novel.  First there is Chloe, a young woman living with her boyfriend in Portland, OR and working as a caseworker for an adoption agency.  Next there’s Penny and Jason, a couple living life on the edge while waiting for Penny to give birth to the child they intend to give away to Francine and John, a wealthy couple whose lives only seem to be missing that one finishing touch.  Then there is Paul and Eva, a couple who were once on the list to receive a child, but who have since been fortunate to have their own.  And all these character’s lives are about to interact in ways both expected and unexpected; for some it’ll be the beginning of their wishes coming true, and for others the beginning of their worst nightmare, especially for the couple whose baby’s kidnapping sets into events that will change everything. 

Hoffman starts off slowly, letting us first get to know these characters -  Their hopes and expectations - some driven by darkness and greed, others by unfulfilled desires and love - each having in common their near obsession in making their dreams come true.  As readers are given an inside glimpse into the sometimes joy-filled, but also heartbreaking, truth behind adoption, they’re taken down a road filled with the searingly honest emotions that can accompany this time, as intensely varying as they might be.  Some of this book can be unsettling in its portrayal of parenthood, family, and the ties that bind both.  But it can also be uplifting as well.  And for those looking for suspense, that’s here too.  A deeply candid and multi-faceted book, this isn’t always easy or pleasant to read, but it is unflinchingly real throughout, and so comes highly recommended. 

 

 

The Identity Man by Andrew Klavan

Publisher: Mariner Books

Reviewed by Ray Palen, New Mystery Reader

Andrew Klavan knows how to write a thriller and THE IDENTITY MAN is a nice foray into the hard-boiled crime genre.  He has been writing best-selling fiction and producing screenplays for decades with his best-known work being DON’T SAY A WORD which was turned into the film of the same name starring Michael Douglas.

With THE IDENTITY MAN, Klavan shows off his skills as he creates a bleak and violent world inhabited by some very unsavory characters and very little hope.  One of the characters stuck somewhere in the middle of this corruption is John Shannon.  John Shannon is a petty thief and three-time loser who, for some inexplicable reason, is kidnapped by unknown parties and has his face redone and is given a new life.  This work is done by the mysterious "Identity Man".  Shannon uses his new life as Henry Conor to take on a freelance carpentry job for a local senior and finds himself falling for the man's daughter --- a recent war widow with a young son.

The inevitable confrontation between Shannon/Conor and the man who remade him provides for an eye-opening moment.  The identity man reveals his true self to Shannon and explains what plans they have for him to assist with cleaning up some of the corruption in their city.  Will Shannon accept or can he just go on pretending to be Conor and forget his past?

Of course, Shannon's past catches up with him and the bad elements of the unnamed city he lives in come back to haunt him.  Shannon/Conor realizes that redemption does not come without a price. Nothing really new here, but Klavan's writing keeps you interested right up until the final page.

 

Reviewed by Jim Sells, New Mystery Reader 

The Identity Man has two parallel and seemingly separate storylines with the same flood-ravaged, riot ridden city as the sole connection between the two.

On one side of the law is John Shannon. Shannon manages to hold down a legal job but gets bored and supplements his income with burglaries. When one of these results in falling out with a fellow criminal, Shannon flees - charged with murder. Incredibly he is kidnapped, given a new identity and plastic surgery – without knowing who arranged it.

Crossing back and forth on both sides of the law is police Lt. Ramsey. Ramsey – with the aid of Detective Gutterson - does the bidding of political boss Augie – including murder and blackmail.

It seems unlikely that their paths will cross until Shannon - in new identity kills a brutal intruder – Gutterson. Now his second chance seems a death warrant.

Kalvan has created a dark and intriguing story that is as much character study as mystery. The style is rapid-fire yet filled with amazing detail. All-in-all, this is an outstanding work.

 

 

A Holiday Yarn by Sally Goldenbaum

Publisher: NAL

Reviewed by Stephanie Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Goldenbaum returns with the group of knitting friends from the idyllic coastal village of Sea Harbor in New England.  It’s almost Christmas and, as usual, this intimate group of friends are busy knitting intricate patterns of cozy softness for those close at home and for needful children in other lands – a warm atmosphere that is about to be broken when one of the most infamous members of the village’s families is found dead in the snow.  Her body, being found at a family’s mansion being remodeled for a B&B, is a shock to the close-knitt residents, especially as the suspects include somebody they all know and love.  But with the victim being a woman who had many enemies, as did the new B&B, finding the killer, especially when he strikes again, will prove to be just as challenging as knitting the perfect square.

This is one book that definitely belongs in the “cozy” genre, and I mean that in the nicest way.  One can’t help when reading this that these characters were watching the snow fall and having a glass of wine, knitting up a storm, and eating delectable foods with good friends – something that can’t be beat.  And when Goldenblaum interrupts this perfect peace with murder, she does it just right -  throwing this perfect setting into a bubbling cauldron of unease that will most likely taste delicious to the reader like a familiar dish without the threat of some unheard of spice. The mystery itself, coming at this time of year, almost seems secondary when compared to its effect on this engaging group of folks whose friendships and care for each other seems more prevalent and meaningful throughout the story.  A wonderful holiday read that will warm and charm, this is perfect for the times when you can get away from the madness and stress of the holidays and need a bit of enticing distraction.       

 

 

Three Seconds by Roslund & Hellstrom

Publisher: Silver Oak

Reviewed by Ray Palen, New Mystery Reader

The latest novel by the Swedish Crime-writing duo of Anders Roslund and Borge Hellstrom has already won the award for Best Swedish Crime novel in their home country and is now making its way up the U.S. best-seller list.

Any success Roslund and Borge have in the U.S. with THREE SECONDS comes from the path that has recently been paved by the late Stieg Larsson and his fantastic Millennium Trilogy.  It seems that U.S. crime readers now have a need for more output from the Netherlands as seen in the recent domestic success of authors like Arnaldur Indriadson, Camilla Lackberg, Hakan Nesser and John Alvide Lindqvist.

With THREE SECONDS, Roslund and Borge tap into their own personal history --- Roslund was an award-winning journalist and Borge an ex-criminal --- and evidence of all their combined experience is seen in the pages of this novel.  The main protagonist is Detective Inspector Ewert Grens, a by the book type of investigator.  When a botched drug deal results in the death of someone working undercover for the Swedish Police, Grens is put on the case.

Unbeknownst to Grens, the very same meeting that brought about this homicide also contained a top-secret police informer named Piet Hoffman, operating under the alias --- Paula.  Hoffman was once a small-time crook who was converted to top of the line police informant and, in an ultra-confidential project, is being used by the upper echelon of the Swedish police and Drug Enforcement to infiltrate the Polish Mafia that has been dealing very successfully inside many of Sweden’s various prisons.  Working from the inside, Hoffman is able to find the players and turn them in --- effectively toppling the toe-hold they have on the drug trade behind these prison walls.

After the shooting at the drug bust, Hoffman is taken in on a bogus drug charge in an effort to get him back inside a prison and do what he does best.  Unfortunately, a visitor to the prison gives up his true identity to some of the real bad guys behind bars and Hoffman’s cover is blown.  Upon hearing this, the ‘handlers’ for Hoffman within the upper levels of the P.D. decide not to help him and in effect burn him.  To be ‘burned’ is to be left in an unsafe situation with no way out and no help to turn to.  It is a death sentence for Hoffman.

Hoffman is street-smart enough to strike a Prison Guard and thereby get solitary confinement --- hoping that this will give his handlers the time they need to find a way of extricating him from his predicament.  Instead, Ewert Grens is given enough clues to lead him to Hoffman as being the person behind the homicide he is investigating.  Not having any information about Hoffman’s real role as a police informant, Grens goes after him at the prison and this in effect let’s Hoffman know that he has been burned and Grens is being manipulated into killing him.

After a fatal hostage drama results in a few deaths at the prison, Grens begins to second-guess some of the information that led him to Hoffman.  Grens is shrewd enough to realize that he and his team were merely puppets being used to eliminate a loose end that could have made the top police brass look bad.  How will Grens be able to redeem himself and expose the truth behind the cover-up he was unwittingly roped into?  In the novel’s afterword, Roslund and Hellstrom go into specific detail about similar cases that have taken place in Sweden whereby Police have used criminals in covert ways and also manipulated criminal charges to allow certain criminals to get off because they could be of use to the Police department in other matters.  A gripping and eye-opening story from start to finish and, hopefully, the start of a long line of successful novels for this duo in the U.S. and abroad.

 

Reviewed by Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader

You can usually tell if a writer has done his homework, because the book will have a solidity and depth that draws you in and makes you believe that what is going on is real.  “Three Seconds” has rather more of this characteristic than most books, and if you don’t feel the need of a bath after reading the prison sequences in this book, you’re a lot tougher than this reviewer.

Part of the success of the pair of writers can be ascribed to Hellstrom’s first-hand experiences in prison, which provides insight no outsider could imagine.  He now works to help others stay out of prison, but in his earlier days he spent some time behind bars.  Add Roslund’s journalism background to this and you have a formula for success.

Their newest book deals with the shadowy world of police informers, people whom nobody trusts, even those who most benefit from the information they receive.  Piet Hoffman has been ‘handled’ by Swedish detective Erik Wilson for nine years, ever since the police made him an offer he couldn’t refuse when he was a young criminal.  Code named ‘Paula”, Piet has helped the police uncover all sorts of crime and criminals, but he’s tiring of the game now.  He has a wife and two little children; he wants to live a normal life.

But first there’s just one more job…we can all guess what happens next.  The extremely dangerous job results in Piet’s being compromised and betrayed, and left to save his own life in a maximum security prison where the inmates would slit your throat for a cigarette and the guards would do it for free.  Add the Polish mafia and some dirty politics to the mix and you have a situation few men would be likely to survive.  (The title refers to the time it will take for a police sniper’s bullet to get from the weapon to Piet’s head.)

This is not a cheerful book. Some readers will find it confusing because of the way it hops about from present to past, and in and out of several of the main characters’ heads.  The co-protagonist, Ewart Grens, a depressed and depressing senior police officer, is not one of the more lovable fictional cops; in fact, I wanted to shake him until his teeth rattled several times.  That said, it’s a complex, well-written and involving story that would certainly make a trans-Pacific flight go faster.