Book Reviews: Quinn by Iris Johansen, Fever Dream by Dennis Palumbo, The Confession by Charles Todd, The Impossible Dead by Ian Rankin, and Back of Beyond by C.J. Box

Quinn
Iris Johansen
St. Martin’s Press, July 2011
ISBN: 978-0-312-65121-3
Hardcover

This is the second volume in a trilogy [the first was Eve, and the next Bonnie], wrapping up the mystery of the disappearance of Eve Duncan’s seven-year-old daughter who was presumably murdered.  This novel gives a lot of background on how she and Quinn came to meet, fall in love and come together.

Of course, it has to begin with Quinn near death in the hospital from a knife wound, but making a superhuman effort to get out and rejoin the hunt for Bonnie’s killer, aided by CIA agent and friend Catherine Ling.  [None of this is a spoiler, please be assured – it’s all revealed on the book cover.]

I had the feeling that a lot of this book was mere padding, an effort to fill out the three-volume “conclusion,” and bringing to an end one aspect of it:  the quest for the truth about Bonnie’s disappearance. The writing and tension keep the reader turning the pages, but wasn’t completely fulfilling for this reader, having not read any of the previous novels.  Of course, I can’t really comment fully on this observation, nor judge its accuracy.  The book is recommended, but I would suggest that at least the first book of the trilogy be read first.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, November 2011.

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Fever Dream
Dennis Palumbo
Poisoned Pen Press, November 2011
ISBN: 978-1-59058-957-1
Hardcover

In the beginning, we had Alex Delaware, psychologist and sometime police consultant.  Now we also have Daniel Rinaldi, psychotherapist and part-time police consultant.  There, of course, the similarities end.  Whereas the Kellerman protagonist is more cerebral, the Palumbo creation is more physical, in keeping with his background as a Golden Glover from the mean streets of Pittsburgh.

This novel, the second in which Rinaldi is involved in a murder mystery which endangers his life (multiple times), begins when he is called by a Pittsburgh detective following a bank robbery, to treat the sole surviving hostage (all the others were shot).  From that point, a series of events takes place, fast and furious.  In the midst of everything, there is a gubernatorial campaign in which the D.A. is running as a tough law-and-order candidate, complicating the police efforts and raising other concerns.

The complex plot proceeds apace, with scant clues but much physical action, especially a few murders and lots of firepower. The only criticism I have about an otherwise entertaining novel is Rinaldi’s omnipotence, allowing him to merely espouse solutions to the various mysteries without any preceding facts in the narrative (maybe that’s the way motion picture scripts are written – – the author formerly was a Hollywood screenwriter).  Nevertheless, the book is very enjoyable, and is recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, December 2011.

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The Confession
Charles Todd
William Morrow, January 2012
ISBN: 978-0-06-201566-2
Hardcover

This latest in the long-running Inspector Ian Rutledge series finds him in his office shortly after the end of World War I listening to a man calling himself Wyatt Russell confess to murdering his cousin years before..  The man tells Rutledge he has stomach cancer and just a very short time to live but wanted to “clear his conscience.”  Little did he know that he would be shot in the head and left in the Thames in just a matter of days.  Now the Inspector has more than one murder to solve, and embarks on a quest that takes him to a little fishing village north of London in Essex where he encounters many more mysteries.

Rutledge learns that the man was not who he claimed to be, and that was but the first thing he had to unravel.  Then to discover the meaning of the only clue he had: a gold woman’s locket with the picture of a young girl, found around the man’s neck.  Without the sanction of an official inquiry, the Inspector proceeds to develop the facts, despite the uncooperative and even hostile reception he receives in the village where additional murders and deaths occur.

A novel written by the mother-and-son team writing under the nom de plume Charles Todd, Confession is up to the high level of its predecessors: the plot is tightly woven, the characters well-drawn and the reader is drawn forward anxiously waiting to find out what comes next.  Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, December 2011.

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The Impossible Dead
Ian Rankin
Reagan Arthur Books / Little, Brown & Co., November 2011
ISBN: 978-0-316-03977-2
Hardcover

Ian Rankin usually lays a foundation of current and past events in his novels.  And, in this second Malcolm Fox mystery, he creates a tale reaching back a quarter of a century, when agitation and violence marked efforts for a separate Scotland.  Fox, who made his debut in The Complaints, grows exponentially as a protagonist, along with his sidekicks on his Internal Affairs team, Tony Kaye and Joe Naysmith.  They are worthy successors to the now retired Rebus, although more subtle in the presentation.

This murder-mystery has its beginnings in an investigation of fellow cops who may have covered up for a corrupt co-worker, Detective Paul Carter, who had been found guilty of misconduct.  The original accuser was Carter’s uncle, an ex-op himself.  When the uncle is found dead, perhaps murdered with a pistol that theoretically did not exist for it should have been destroyed by the police in 1985, and Carter himself dead by drowning shortly afterward, Fox is drawn into his own inquiry outside the aegis of a Complaints review, resurrecting the turmoil of the past and terrorist threats of the present.

Rankin also demonstrates his trademark attention to character development, concentrating much of the story on the deterioration of Fox’ father’s physical well-being and his relationship with his sister, each with sensitivity and care.  At the same time, the author shows his talent for integrating the setting, plot and theme, tightly intertwining the various elements.  Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, December 2011.

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Back of Beyond
C.J. Box
Minotaur Books, August 2011
ISBN: 978-0-312-36574-5
Hardcover

Against the vastness and isolation of Yellowstone Park, C.J. Box has once again created a suspense-murder-thriller novel using the natural environment as a backdrop.  Cody Hoyt, a rogue cop who first appeared in Three Weeks to Say Goodbye, returns once again, as he is called in to investigate the death of a man shot in the head and burned in his half-destroyed mountain cabin, later identified as Cody’s AA sponsor, making the case very personal to the detective.

In the course of his investigation, Cody discovers that the murderer has joined a group on a multi-day wilderness horseback trip in a remote part of the park.  Adding incentive, Cody learns that his son is part of the group on the trip, so has to not only find the murderer but save his son.

The author then takes the reader on a wild ride, never once giving much away in clues as bodies and riderless horses start turning up along the trail as Cody, who now is suspended and AWOL from the Sheriff’s Department, tries to close in on the remaining group.  The descriptions are sweeping, the character development deeply absorbing.

Recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, December 2011.

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