click on links for buying info
Want You Dead by Peter James
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Reviewed by Jim Sells, New Mystery Reader
Red Cameron has not had an easy life in some ways. In
her mid-thirties, she has had menial office jobs and several failed
relationships. For this reason, she is hopeful for the prospects that her real
estate career and potential relationship with Dr. Karl Murphy. He is a young
widower with two small children and seems the kind of man she seeks.
Red has never been able to measure up to her older
sister in her own mind. The sister is a highly successful lawyer with a socially
and professionally prominent husband. Her sister is expecting her first child
and never passes on an opportunity to brag of her successes and point out Red’s
Red is at first angry when Karl fails to show up for a
scheduled date. Then she is torn between worry and anger. Finally she is
incredulous when police investigators come to question her about the number of
calls she placed to Karl – calls placed around the time of his supposed suicide.
Detective Superintendent Roy Grace is at first relieved
that Karl’s death appears to be a suicide. After all, he has a handwritten
suicide attributing the suicide to Karl missing his deceased wife. Even though
self-immolation seems an unlikely method of suicide, he has nothing to indicate
otherwise. He has enough going in his life without a high profile crime. Grace
is about to be wed and enjoy a short honeymoon. However, something about the
incident disturbs Grace.
Bryce Laurent has failed at most if not all undertakings
in his life. He was a British commando dismissed from the service due to his
conduct. He tried to train for the fire brigade and was fired – blaming his
superior rather than himself. He worked for a time in security systems. Bryce
failed in his relationship with Red – vacillating between extreme generosity,
irrational jealousy, passionate lovemaking and violent attacks.
As Bryce puts into motion his plan for revenge against
various persons for transgressions – real or imagined – the reader is treated to
a portrait of a potentially real monster. He could walk among us without setting
off a panic. The experiences from his jobs lend themselves well to his plans for
The plot is strong. The violence is graphic. The story
has a Hitchcock like feeling to it. Male character development is well executed.
Female character development is more superficial. This fact could keep the work
from reaching its full potential and makes Red less of a sympathetic character.
Still, it is a worthwhile read.
Wait for Signs by Craig Johnson
Reviewed by Jim Sells, New
Sheriff Walt Longmire is a product of the American West.
The howling winds, deep snow and vast expanses have done much to shape the man.
Longmire is intimately familiar with violence after serving as a Marine in the
Vietnam War and in law enforcement. Yet he would rather use his head to solve
most problems in his job.
Many readers may be familiar with the television series
based upon the characters created by Mr. Johnson. The producers and crew do a
good job with the television series. However, fans may gain more insight into
the character by reading the books. They are written in the first person and
give a sense of looking outward from Walt’s perspective.
“Wait for Signs” is not a novel. It is a collection of
short stories. Mr. Johnson explains that he wrote a short story some ten years
ago a “gift” to subscribers of his newsletter. Now his fans want to know when
the next story will come out each year.
The stories are focused upon the human-interest
perspective of people that Longmire encounters on his job and in his personal
life. Several of plots deal with the holidays and resulting problems – both
criminal and personal. Not all authors are able to produce quality work in this
genre. Mr. Johnson shows himself to be up to the task. The storylines are
complete and interesting. The characters are likeable or not. The stories are
infused with humor and a good twist at the end.
Walt is able to handle most situations with little
difficulty – except for his relationship with his daughter and the void left by
the death of his wife.
The author has produced superior works here. It is not
surprising that the series was based upon his work. The reader will have the joy
of twelve beginnings and the sadness of twelve endings. May Mr. Johnson continue
to produce his creations and may Sheriff Walt Longmire continue to protect the
citizens of Wyoming.
The Laws of Murder by Charles Finch
Reviewed by Bonnye Busbice
Good, New Mystery Reader
Charles Lenox has cheerfully given up his position in
Parliament, relishing his return to life as a well-heeled detective. To that
end, he’s joined three partners to form a detective agency: his protégé, wealthy
and newly focused Lord Dallington; observant and practical Miss Strickland; and
Frenchman, Monsieur LaMaire, joined by his exuberant nephew.
With the start of his agency, Lenox expects his ongoing
relationships with Scotland Yard to result in welcome publicity, but quickly
realizes the threat that his new firm poses to professional police detectives
and their superiors. Sinking into misery, Lenox must cast aside his self-doubts
after a close friend dies in a very suspect location, leaving Lenox and his
colleagues to solve a murder with significant consequences.
Charles Finch’s series gains a bit of spark now that
Lenox has returned to private life, while still allowing the natural progression
of time. Key figures in previous books now serve other purposes, offering
possibilities for future installments, including Parliament.
Lenox’ partnership allows him to falter a bit while also
showing how Dallington, formerly troubled, has grown into a respectable man who
can now help his mentor. It’s interesting to see Miss Strickland, who works
under a pseudonym to retain her respectability, perform her own brand of
investigation among lower classes than the aristocracy Lenox knows so well. Her
addition allows an interplay between classes as well as between gender, while
LaMaire’s inclusion brings Continental methods to the fore.
Readers fond of Anne Perry’s William Pitt or C. S.
Harris’ Sebastian St. Cyr should enjoy The Laws of Murder, which is set in 1876
during Victoria’s reign. True to form, the Victorian era may look proper on the
outside, but Lenox’ case reveals dark truths writhing underneath the delicate
exterior, resulting in a deeply personal case that taxes his agency and gives
light to his fears.
Festive In Death by J D Robb
Publisher: Putman Books
Karen Treanor, New Mystery Reader
Once again it’s the holiday season,
and once again our heroine, Lt. Eve Dallas, is dreading the festivities. Not
only does she have the burden of buying presents for friends, she is facing an
obligatory house party planned by her husband, the world’s richest, handsomest
and sexiest man, Roarke. The party means getting glammed up and suffering the
attentions of Trina, beautician extraordinaire, who terrifies Eve more than an
axe murderer in a dark alley. Fortunately a murder interrupts the holiday plans
and Eve hopes that with a little bit of luck she might have an excuse not to
turn up for the party.
It’s hard for Eve and her faithful
assistant Delia Peabody to feel much sympathy for the murder victim. He’s a
personal trainer, Trey Zeigler, and the more they find out about the people who
had a reason to wish him dead, the more they understand why he ended up in that
condition. Trey was a sexual predator, a blackmailer, and a thorough rotter, to
use an old-fashioned term.
Trey may not have been likeable, but
he’s Eve’s case now, and she’ll work as hard to find his murderer as she would
for a victim she felt was more worthy of her attention. She interviews his
employer, his competition, the other trainers in the business; she interviews
his lovers—if one can use that word for the way Trey treated them—and his
neighbours. In between tracking down clues, she manages to get her Christmas
shopping done and makes an ill-considered promise to Roake’s major domo,
Summerset, to be available to help organise the big house party.
All the usual supporting cast is here
: Captain Feeney, e-geek McNab, Dr Mira, Medical Examiner Morris, the boys and
girls in the detectives bullpen, and the slightly futuristic post-urban-war city
of New York.
The scene where Eve has to front up
and keep her promise to Summerset is one of the funniest you’ll ever read in
this usually fairly dark series; you’ll wish you knew someone like Eve to help
you organise your own holiday activities. Does she also manage to solve the
murder? Need you ask?
As always, a very enjoyable read.
OK, so it’s not “Great Litrachoor”, but come on, ’fess up: when was the last
time you picked up a literary classic as an escape from the humdrum, or to cheer
yourself up? There’s a time for Thomas Hardy and a time for J D Robb.
Deadline by John Sandford
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Reviewed by Jim Sells, New
Virgil Flowers is a skillful if colorful investigator
for the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. In place of dress shoes, he
chooses cowboy boots. His sidearm is more often left in his truck than carried
Virgil’s caseload had gotten a little light when his
friend Johnson Johnson approaches him about a number of missing dogs. Some of
the dogs are just family pets and some are high dollar hunting dogs.
Despite his best efforts and help of the dogs’ owners,
progress is slow. Every time they get close, the thieves manage to move the
dogs. While scouting for the dogs, Virgil happens across drug labs capable of
producing commercial quantities of several drugs. The calling of the Feds and
raid on the labs proves one of several disruptions to the dog case.
Then more serious crimes arise. A writer for the local
advertiser is gunned down by a three round burst from an AR15. The three round
burst is significant since it proves lead.
The writer had once been a skill investigative
journalist but was on the down slope of his career thanks to booze and drugs. At
first, his drug habit proves a possible lead. However, Virgil finds that the man
had turned his life around and was apparently on the verge of breaking a big
story. Could this be the motive for the murder?
Then there is a second murder and questions of a serial
killer arise. Virgil finds the reporter’s flash drive thanks to the help of a
local prostitute. The drive gives substance to the reporter’s story and makes it
likely that the motive for the second murder was cover embezzlement –
substantial embezzlement - by school board members.
Virgil’s case is coming together, when a “mysterious”
fire occurs in the school board offices. The paper trail is destroyed, but
Virgil is not one to give up. However, he is dealing with a cold-blooded group
willing to stop at little – including his murder – to cover their tracks.
Sandford has been successful with the Virgil Flowers
franchise and does not disappoint in this latest offering. The descriptions of
the small towns are vivid as are the people. The relationship between Virgil and
Johnson is at once mutually beneficial along with a deep bond. The story is
entertaining and a good mystery at the same time.
Murder 101 by Faye Kellerman
Publisher: William Morrow
Reviewed by Bonnye Busbice Good
for New Mystery Reader
Faye Kellerman refreshed her long-running Decker/Lazarus
police procedural series when LAPD Detective Lieutenant Peter Decker and his
wife, Rina, chose to pack up and move east to enjoy their adult children and
Decker takes a job with the Greenbury Police in the
bucolic eastern town, whiling his days away on minor calls and enduring the
arrogance of the young man partnered with him. Decker’s Harvard-educated
partner, Tyler McAdams, received his position based on his father’s wealth and
connections and Tyler makes sure that everyone knows it.
While Rina happily adjusts to seasons and life in a
friendly small college town, Decker longs for gruesome murder investigations and
his well-seasoned team in LA. When Decker and McAdams stumble into an art
forgery case, Decker finally feels a little jolt of happiness—soon to be greatly
increased when Greenbury experiences a horrific murder, the first in years.
As always, Kellerman provides an enjoyable murder
investigation with intelligent, well-developed characters. She continues to
flesh out Decker’s professional and personal relationships, keeping the threads
going in the latest installment just as a family historian would in any modern,
extended family. The juggling of personal and professional worlds never feels
forced or intrusive, just part of Decker’s thoughtful experience.
In a nod to Decker’s past and long-time readers,
Kellerman brings in some of Decker’s family members such as his foster son and
his LA colleagues without allowing them to overshadow his new partnership and
position in Greenbury. It also shows the contrast between Decker’s former
position of authority and his new job as low man on the proverbial totem pole,
creating extra layers when his expertise comes into play during the murder
Murder 101 delves into college life and high-end Tiffany
stained glass, covering an array of motives and social classes while remaining
grounded in Decker’s investigation into the forgery and murders. With this
latest move, Decker continues to evolve in an authentic feeling manner, making
him one of the genre’s most interesting and reliable detectives. Readers of
Aaron Elkins, Daniel Silva, and Louise Penny should consider adding Faye
Kellerman to their must-read lists.
One Kick by Chelsea Cain
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Reviewed by Jim Sells, New
As a child, Kit Lannigan undergoes every parent’s
nightmare. At age six, her pet dog escapes and a stranger offers to help find
him. This leads to her abduction and forced participation in child porn for the
next several years. Eventually the FBI rescues her but not before tremendous
emotional and psychological damage has been done.
As a young adult, she had fallen to calling herself
“Kick”. Along with the help of her brilliant adopted brother James, she tracks
the cases of missing and abducted children in her native Portland area. A map
marks these cases with color-coded pins. Her obsession with these cases stems
from the fact that during her rescue her abductor instructs her to destroy the
database that contained the names of participants in the child pornography ring.
As she struggles with yet another anniversary of her
ordeal and tries to avoid the attention of the media, a stranger named Bishop
appears. Bishops lets himself into her apartment with little effort. He tells
her that the FBI agent that rescued her sent him. Bishop proposes a partnership
to hunt down child predators.
Knowing nothing more than Bishop’s vague reference to
his career as an arms dealer and his extensive resources that include a
helicopter, a private jet, expensive houses and a variety of $100,000 cars Kick
goes with him.
The journey back down the rabbit hole from which she was
rescued serves at once as a healing process and exposure to the monsters in
human form that people the hidden world of these pedophiles and their victims.
They live in groups they label “families”. She discovers that there is even a
hierarchy among these people. She and Bishop find that they must they must face
twisted creatures that even the families fear and ultimately defeat a violent
psychopath known only as “Iron Jacket”.
“One Kick” is a dark story dealing with a dark subject.
The characters are not Hollywood movie cutouts breezing through with one-liners
while saving the day. The characters are dark and brooding. Kick’s willingness
to participate is clearly related to her ordeal. Bishop is an enigma that lends
mystery. As Bishop’s tortured past is revealed, his motivation for hunting down
the pedophiles and willingness and potential to use violence to stop the
predators becomes clear. Cain writes in a crisp style that moves the story along
in linear fashion. This is a well-written and engrossing tale. However, it is
not for the faint of heart.
The Golem Of Hollywood by Jonathan and Jesse Kellerman
Reviewed by Ray Palen for New
Fresh off his highly disappointing Alex Delaware novel,
KILLER, Jonathan Kellerman returns with a stand-alone novel, THE GOLEM OF
HOLLYWOOD. After decades of solid work, Kellerman seems lost and the effort of
his last few novels was noticeably sub-par.
With this latest novel, Jonathan is teaming up with his
son, Jesse. The improvement, initially, really showed. The story kicks off
with a burnt out former LAPD Homicide Detective, Jacob Lev, being called away
from his new duties as part of the Traffic squad to join a highly secretive
operation that will involve him chasing down both a myth and a legend in the
local crime world.
THE GOLEM OF HOLLYWOOD starts off with a blast and is
written in the style of a David Lynch film with dream-like sequences and oddball
characters who seemingly have no relation to the plot. I can only attribute
this to the influence of Jesse Kellerman for this prose did not resemble
anything his father has ever written.
It turns out Jacob Lev may not have been chosen for his
homicide skills but due to his Jewish heritage. Severed heads begin to turn up
in the LA area with the Hebrew symbol for 'justice' left near the decapitated
bodies. Even with this additional clue the work seems oddly familiar to the
infamous cold case murders blame on the serial killer nick-named the Creeper.
Could the Creeper be back --- or is this a copycat? Even worse, could the
Creeper actually be a supernatural figure that has somehow re-awoken and now
Great premise --- crime thriller meets Jewish mysticism
with a supernatural twist. Unfortunately, it quickly unravels from there. The
Jewish religion is a beautiful one with rich traditions and history that can
readily apply themselves to modern fiction tales. However, the Kellerman duo
overdo it during this novel. The tale keeps getting interrupted by Old
Testament era tales involving everyone from Adam and Eve to Cain and Abel. The
legend of the Golem of Prague is eventually covered and it is this supernatural
being who may allegedly be behind the murders in modern-day L.A.
I only wish the story was as exciting as that premise.
At nearly 550 pages in length, it is a long way to go for your average thriller
and crime readers to go for a satisfying story. Unfortunately, the latter half
of this book is almost unreadable and extremely boring. By the time the ending
comes around you probably won't care anymore. In the hands of a better editor
this could have been a far tighter novel. Once again, a big miss for Kellerman
who has yet to show the promise of his older work with his latest efforts.
Fighting Chance by Jane Haddam
Reviewed by Bonnye Busbice
Good, New Mystery Reader
Gregor Demarkian enjoys helping the police out on
occasion as a case consultant, but when they ask for his help on their latest
case, he’s flummoxed. The chief suspect is a priest caught on videotape brutally
murdering a judge known for her tough sentencing practices. Worst yet, the
priest is Gregor’s dear friend, Father Tibor, whose only response to questioning
is to plead the Fifth Amendment.
Things only get worse when it turns out that the
murdered judge engaged in wide-ranging questionable practices and the list of
potential suspects could be a yard long, although Father Tibor’s motive is one
dear to his empathetic heart.
Fighting Chance has strong ties to the Armenian-American
community, especially since most of the immigrants and their families attend
Father Tibor’s church. While Father Tibor remains uncommunicative in the local
jail, the Dekanian family worries about losing their home to a bank threatening
to foreclose—even though the bank had nothing to do with the home’s mortgage.
Fortunately, attorney Russ Donahue—whose wife is part of the community—is
working through his nerves and ulcers to try to stop the bank from foreclosing.
The immersion into the Armenian/American culture mix
proves enjoyable—one almost expects System of a Down to make an appearance—but
the large cast of characters may require readers to do a little backtracking to
establish personalities and relationships to other characters. Still, there’s a
lot of personality in this little neighborhood and readers fond of Louise Penny
and PD James should consider the Gregor Demarkian novels.
Don't Look Back by Greg Hurwitz
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Reviewed by Ray Palen for New
I must admit that I was not terribly excited about this
review as I have not really enjoyed any of the previous work by Greg Hurwitz
that I have read. His writing was stilted and characters one dimensional. With
great trepidation I ventured into his latest novel, DON'T LOOK BACK.
The best things about being an avid reader are the
opportunities to be proven wrong about a book and find endless delight inside
its pages. This was my experience with DON'T LOOK BACK. Not since Scott
Smith's THE RUINS has a novel acted as a cautionary tale for American foreign
travel --- especially to Mexico.
This novel has everything and includes suspense that
grabs you almost immediately by the throat and never lets up. There is no
horror worse than human horror and that is what is at the center of this
novel. It boils down to innocent, 'soft' Americans being tortured, terrorized
and killed by an Islamic fundamentalist waging his own personal war in the
jungles of Mexico.
DON'T LOOK BACK at times reminded me of the work of the
late, great Richard Laymon --- no author I have ever read captured human horror
like he did. It also rang out in comparison to authors like Brad Thor and David
Baldacci who seem to have their fingers on the pulse of the modern terrorist
threat against the western world.
Eve Hardaway needed an escape and change of scenery.
She is a single mother, abandoned by her ex-husband and seeking to find
herself. She carries a copy of Melville's MOBY DICK with her --- but she has
yet to bring herself to read it. This will become a strong metaphor for the
journey and ordeal she is about to withstand.
She and a handful of other Americans are staying at a
Mexican resort located deep in the jungles of Oaxaca where their days are spent
exploring the terrain, climbing mountains, river rafting and enjoying the local
cuisine. This seemingly tranquil oasis escape is shattered when Eve comes
across a strange man within the jungle hurling an ax into a wooden cutout of a
human body. He sees her and warns her to leave and 'don't look back'.
On her way back to her party she comes across a digital
camera on the jungle floor. Research tells her it belonged to an American woman
named Teresa Hamilton. Even with a limited internet connection, Eve is able to
get on the web long enough to find news of Teresa's disappearance and her being
given up for dead. When looking at the photos on the digital camera the last
are of the strange man who accosted Eve in the jungle.
That man is actually a Middle Eastern terrorist named
Bashir who is trying to remain hidden in the heart of Mexico while secretly
plotting his own personal war against the Americans. Knowing that the digital
camera Eve found will reveal his identity is something he cannot have. Like an
Agatha Christie story, the members of Eve's group are picked off one by one and
dispatched of in horrible ways.
What transpires is a life-or-death struggle amidst the
jungles of Oaxaca between Eve Hardaway and Bashir and features an ending that
will have readers gasping for breath. In my eyes, Greg Hurwitz has not only
redeemed himself but written one of the best thrillers of the year in the
Darkness, Darkness by John Harvey
Publisher: Pegasus Crime
Reviewed by Ray Palen for New
In 1984, The National Union of Mineworkers led by Arthur
Scargill, brought about one of the most infamous and costly strikes in the
history of the United Kingdom. This strike effected the entire coal industry
and the ramifications were felt country-wide.
The ending of the strike was seen as a major victory for
then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and struck a powerful blow against the
British Union movement. It is this event, thirty years in the past, that is at
the heart of John Harvey's latest novel --- DARKNESS, DARKNESS.
Based in the town of Nottinghamshire --- a major player
in the infamous strike --- John Harvey has chosen to use this actual historical
event as impetus for the final novel in his Charlie Resnick series. During the
time of the strike there were some obvious situations that escalated into
violence, specifically when scab workers crossed the picket line to continue
work in the mines.
When the wife of a prominent figure in the strike went
missing thirty years earlier the town just assumed she had left of her own
accord. With labor issues once again rearing their ugly head in the present
day, Resnick's hope of finishing his time on the force quietly are squashed when
his superiors send him to Nottinghamshire to quiet things down. It is during
his reconnaissance of the unit at the heart of the labor dispute that the
remains of a human are uncovered.
Modern CSI analysis is done and the bone is traced to
the woman who disappeared thirty years earlier during the big strike. This
symbolism is not lost on Resnick or those close the current situation. When a
young woman goes missing during Resnick's investigation into the cold case he
quickly realizes that history may be repeating itself in ugly ways.
What I have liked about Resnick is the professional
distance he keeps from his difficult job. Like Peter Robinson's DCI Banks, DI
Resnick is a real person with a fondness for music (particularly jazz), the arts
and fine food. He has spent much of the series questioning the actions of his
own department, sometimes to his own detriment.
With DARKNESS, DARKNESS clearly being subtitled
'Resnick's Last Case', I won't reveal anything further about him. Let's just
leave it said that the one opponent Resnick is unable to defeat is called fate.
Seven Wonders by Ben Mezrich
Publisher: Running Press
Reviewed by Jim Sells, New
The story opens by introducing Jeremy Grady, a gifted
PhD candidate at MIT. While intellectually gifted, Jeremy never excelled at
other fields such as sports or social skills. These were left to his brother.
While trying to use his number expertise to solve a puzzle in his brother’s
field of anthropology, Jeremy discovers something that will not only turn the
academic world upside down, but also religion and overall culture. Before he can
reveal this, he is murdered in his own lab.
His brother Jack is notified and comes. Unfortunately,
he had little real contact with Jeremy except for yearly, awkward meetings.
However, upon sneaking back to the crime scene, he discovers a flash drive that
Jeremy concealed from his killer. Armed with this information, Jack and two grad
students travel from the U.S. to Latin America to India and back in pursuit of
answers. In Latin America, a female professor whose work had led her to seek
some of the same answers joins them.
Unfortunately, none of them know that a powerful and
ruthless billionaire is seeking the same treasures that their quest will reveal.
The billionaire is only letting them lead her to the treasures before her
blood-thirsty minion will be unleashed to collect the treasures and leave no
The book reads like the plot of a major action movie.
This is not surprising given that two of the author’s previous works were made
in motion pictures. The plot is fast and the violence graphic. Perhaps character
development suffers somewhat given this format. It is adequate in the written
form but will probably suit the screen better.
Ghost Wanted by Carolyn Hart
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime
Reviewed by Bonnye Busbice
Good, New Mystery Reader
Bailey Ruth has enjoyed being married to her dear
husband for decades; cares deeply for the residents of her Oklahoma hometown,
Adelaide; and still looks like she’s 27. Well, yes, she’s dead, too; Bailey Ruth
works for Heaven’s Department of Good Intentions, helping to right wrongs on
Earth while trying—as much as possible—to remain unseen by the living, who
mistake her for a ghost.
As an emissary of the Department, Bailey must work under
a set of precepts, or rules, whenever she returns to earth. Some precepts she
routinely breaks, such as the one in which she should not appear to the living,
but another precept also warns her not to appear to other “ghosts,” either.
In Ghost Wanted, Bailey Ruth’s stern, but good-hearted
supervisor, Paul Wiggins, asks Bailey Ruth to help an earthbound ghost who
remains on her family estate on a college campus in Adelaide. While residents
formerly believed the ghost was a romantic and benevolent entity who left roses
for prospective couples, recent acts of vandalism attributed to the ghost
inspire a new sense of fear in the students.
The ghost, an elegant woman named Lorraine, also has a
surprising connection in Heaven, but refuses to leave the living, making equally
intriguing connections on earth. Meanwhile, a young woman chosen by Lorraine as
a potential romantic partner with the local paper editor disappears, along with
a very rare, very expensive book.
Carolyn Hart’s latest installment in the Bailey Ruth
Ghost series remains as appealing as ever; Bailey Ruth’s bubbly, never-say-die
(so to speak) personality shines through on both planes of existence and her
bits of vanity and other flaws keep her believable and likeable. The series
remains ideal for cozy mystery fans, but never delves into blandness; fans of
Bailey Ruth are unlikely to confuse one of her mysteries with any others.
Hart seems to care a little less if readers take umbrage
of her vision of Heaven and the afterlife as a whole. Hart never preaches, but
instead relishes the mixing of famous and nonfamous people, cheerfully creating
unexpected, Heavenly friendships that entertain her readers. She pays equal
attention to the relationships related to the missing college student and to the
night watchman, respectively; both of which factor in well with Lorraine’s
mission to spread joy and love.
Tenacious investigator Bailey Ruth has her non-corporeal
hands full with this assignment, but her big heart and fashion sense serve as
great assets in her latest case to help the living—and the dead.
Murder at the Brightwell by Ashley Weaver
Reviewed by Bonnye Busbice
Good, New Mystery Reader
Amery Ames lives the life most people in the 1930s
dreamed about: dashing husband, well-appointed home, and the freedom and wealth
to follow her whims. After reading the Society page about her “infuriating”
husband of five years, Milo, spending his time gambling and frolicking with
women in Monte Carlo, Amery decides things must change.
Her former fiancé, Gil Trent, offers her an escape with
the request that she accompany him on a seaside vacation to persuade his beloved
younger sister, Emmeline, not to make the same mistake in marrying a cad. Amery
can’t help but compare the parallels to her own life and wonder what might have
been had she married Gil instead of Milo.
Amery and Gil travel to Brightwell, a popular hotel for
the upper class and those who wish to be perceived as such. In addition to
Emmeline, they meet several friends of Gil and Emmeline’s: bombshell Anne
Rodgers and and her bland husband, Edward; meek Larissa Hamilton and her boorish
husband Nelson; stage actor Lionel Blake; and, of course, the charming, cheating
man engaged to Emmeline, Rupert Howe.
While Amery decompresses from her stressful marriage in
the serene setting, she discovers a body, leading to the introduction of
Inspector Jones, a Hercule Poirot-inspired detective who alternately intrigues
and irritates Amery. Amery is nearly as much of an outsider as Inspector Jones,
since she only knew Gil and Emmeline before the visit to Brightwell, and knew
very little of their lives after she married Milo.
Similar in tone and style as Nicola Upson’s elegant and
riveting Josephine Tey novels, Murder at the Brightwell marks the debut novel of
Ashley Weaver, a Louisiana librarian. Murder at the Brightwell flows well,
allowing readers to see the hidden passion between the chilly exteriors of many
of the characters.
Everyone’s got secrets, including the outwardly
enigmatic Amery, which plays out when she receives one of several surprises at
Brightwell in this graceful, provocative 1930s mystery.
Long Way Home by Louise Penny
Reviewed by Bonnye Busbice Good, New Mystery
In How the Light Gets In, Armand Gamache retired from his lofty and
fraught position as head of Quebec’s police department, finding peace in the
appropriately named Three Pines, a singular place he discovered while
investigating a murder years before. His wife, Reine-Marie, enjoys having
her husband home each day, knowing he’s safe and able to enjoy doing things
together as a couple. This placid life also means that Armand becomes a
creature of routine—a very bored creature.
Three Pines resident and artist Clara Morrow notes his habits, including
reading the same book every morning on a park bench without ever finishing,
but says nothing in spite of her curiosity. The people of Three Pines formed
a tight bond during the course of previous investigations and have welcomed
Armand and his extended family with open arms. Each person in Armand’s
circle shows memorable quirks and bears significant scars, and all are
protective of one another and each other’s secrets.
When Clara has her own problem, she knows Armand retains the resources to
help her and will not judge. Clara separated from her husband, Peter, a year
before with the intention to meet again after the year was up. Peter, also a
prominent artist, fails to return to Three Pines and the uncertainty plagues
Armand and his former second-in-command and now son-in-law, Jean-Guy
Beauvoir, quickly pick up Peter’s trail only to realize that the artist’s
reason for not returning home to Clara is much darker than anyone imagined.
Louise Penny, an accomplished storyteller who uses Canada’s setting to
its full effect, describes the various states of marriage in The Long Way
Home, allowing the happily married Armand to continue his own deep
relationships with his former colleagues while helping his friend with her
True to form, Penny refuses to allow Armand’s path to be either easy or
simplistic, but always reveals compassion for these beloved characters. Her
writing remains strong and plot twists keep readers guessing what’s happened
and why. In fact, G. M. Malliet namechecks Penny’s How the Light Gets In in
the current book, A Demon Summer.
Thoughtful and quick-paced, smart and enjoyable, Penny’s Chief Inspector
Gamache Novels are easily one of the best current series and a must for
readers who love Malliet, P. D. James, Stephen Booth, and Faye Kellerman.