Book Reviews: Gloria Feit X 3

Trick of the Dark
Val McDermid
Little, Brown, 2010
ISBN 978-1-4087-0201-7
Hardcover

[This book is presently available only in/through the UK and Canada, not available in the US at this time]

As the book opens, Dr. Charlotte [“Charlie”] Flint finds her professional life as a forensic psychiatrist in tatters, her reputation destroyed, and awaiting a hearing by the General Medical Council to will decide whether or not she can be reinstated as an expert in her field.

Magdalene [“Magda”] Newsam, a pediatric oncologist, is a 28-year-old woman whose husband was killed on their wedding night, attending the trial of her husband’s partners for his murder.  One of the two hubs of this book is Magda’s mother, Corinna Newsam, who was Charlie’s tutor while an undergraduate at St. Scholastika’s College, Oxford University, which is the other point around which all else revolves. Each of the characters’ ties to Corinna and Oxford have shaped their lives to this point.  As is the case also with Jay Stewart, wildly successful businesswoman in the throes of writing her second memoir following her first bestseller, the point of view throughout the book variously that of the three younger women.

Corinna asks Charlie to investigate whether, as she suspects, Jay Stewart had something to do with her son-in-law’s death, mostly due to the fact that Jay is now romantically involved with Magda.  Seeking redemption, Charlie agrees. As the solution drew near, the feeling that I knew what lay ahead didn’t diminish the suspense or the intricacy of the plot.  And, of course, I was completely wrong in my expectations.

Few of the characters in the book are male; few of the romantic relationships/entanglements are heterosexual, a fact noteworthy only in the prejudices thereby aroused in others which are essential to the plot.  The novel, though somewhat lengthy, is an absorbing and worthy addition to Ms. McDermid’s past novels, and is recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, November 2010.

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Thirteen Hours
Deon Meyer
Translated by K. L. Seegers
Atlantic Monthly Press, 2010
ISBN 978-0-8021-1958-2
Hardcover

Post-Apartheid South Africa has undergone many traumatic changes.  But for homicide detective Benny Griessel, nothing much changes except for the murder victims, the politics, unsettled race relations and his own personal problems.  Benny is saddled with “mentoring” newly promoted black or “colored” detectives.  Of course, he is the only experienced white.

The plot involves two murders and a kidnapping, each a potential PR disaster for the SA government.  It is up to Benny and his untested troops to save a captive American girl who witnessed the murder of her fellow tourist. Meanwhile, a well-known music executive is found shot in his home with his pistol lying at his feet, his alcoholic wife
asleep in a chair.

Deon Meyer has written six novels and Thirteen Hours is probably the best (not taking anything away from its predecessors).  It is taut, moving and deeply memorable, and is highly recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, November 2010.

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The Immortals
J.T. Ellison
MIRA Books, 2010
ISBN 978-0-7783-2763-9
Mass Market Paperback

This newest entry in the Taylor Jackson series could be termed a procedural with a twist.  It includes elements of the occult: Goth, Wicca, Satanic and Pagan rituals and beliefs.  In the spirit of full disclosure, I must admit that in general, “woo woo” is not my favorite genre.  This novel, however, does not ask readers to believe in the occult, merely to accept that there are those that do.  And on that basis, I had no problem with it at all.  More to the point, I found it equally as enjoyable as the earlier books in this series, of which this is the fifth.

All events transpire over a four-day period, beginning, significantly, on October 31st [usually known as Halloween or, if one follows the occult, Samhain, which is the Wiccan New Year.]  As the book opens, Taylor Jackson has just been reinstated as a Lieutenant in the Nashville Metro Police Department, heading up the Murder Squad.  The squad assembles hurriedly when there are reports of multiple victims and multiple crime scenes, at least seven dead in five different houses, all victims between fourteen and eighteen years of age.  The persons responsible seem to be the eponymous, if self-styled, Immortals.  Is this, as it starts to appear, a case of vampires and witches running amok in Nashville, Tennessee?

Paralleling this investigation in the novel is one that revolves around events which began in June of 2004 with the discovery of the fifth victim of what the media dubs The Clockwork Killer, which involved Dr. John Baldwin, Supervisory Special Agent and Taylor’s fiancé, and which he must revisit when a hearing into the matter is being held at FBI headquarters at Quantico.  In each case, the present and the past, there is an inherent threat of further loss of young lives, both aspects of the book equally suspenseful.  [I couldn’t help but note that Dr. Baldwin displays good taste in writers, reading a copy of a John Connolly book in one scene.]  The occult aspect becomes just another part of the background and not a deterrent to this reader’s enjoyment of the book.  As is pointed out to Taylor, “Everyone needs something to believe in.  Pagans just look to things that are a bit more tangible than what you and I are aware of.”  The Immortals, as were the other books in the series, is recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, November 2010.