Book Reviews: The Crypt Thief by Mark Pryor and Already Dead by Stephen Booth

The Crypt ThiefThe Crypt Thief
A Hugo Marston Novel, #2
Mark Pryor
Seventh Street Books, May 2013
ISBN 978-1-61614-785-3
Trade Paperback

Two tourists were discovered dead in Paris’ famous Pere Lachaise cemetery near American rock star Jim Morrison’s grave. Is there any connection between the victims and the dead cult hero? When the murdered young man is identified as Maxwell Holmes, the son of American senator Harris Holmes, and his companion as a Pakistani woman traveling under an assumed name, officials investigating the deaths suspect a link to a terrorist.

But Hugo Marston, head of security at the American embassy in Paris, wants to investigate other possibilities, but the French police and the senator are focused on terrorism. The senator is sure that the woman was a terrorist trying to gain access to the embassy through a relationship with the senator’s son. The American ambassador J. Bradford Taylor, agrees with Hugo but even though he is pressured by the senator, he buys some time for Hugo to investigate. With the discovery of the theft of body parts from a grave at the cemetery—the leg bones of famous Moulin Rouge dancer Jane Avril—Hugo is convinced that the murder was not the work of a terrorist. Complicating matters is Hugo’s friend Tom Green, supposedly retired from the CIA, who is drinking to excess and spinning out of control. He is tapped to head the terrorism investigation, and his reckless behavior alarms Hugo.

It’s a fast faced mystery, one that draws you in, with lots of conflict between characters. There is that great Paris backdrop and a creepy murderer. This book is the second in the series, after The Bookseller. If you like Michael Connelly and Ian Hamilton, this might be right up your alley.

Reviewed by Susan Belsky, April 2014.

 

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Already DeadAlready Dead
Stephen Booth
Sphere, June 2013
ISBN: 978-0-7515-5171-6
Hardcover

[This book is presently available in hardcover/paperback in/through the UK; hc in Canada now, and in August, 2014 in pb; and in the US as an e-book from Witness Impulse in August, 2014.]

The newest novel in the Ben Cooper and Diane Fry series opens on an ominous note, with the death of an adult male, found lying naked in a shallow stream in “the rural wastelands of the Peak District,” where the roads have been flooded and travel difficult if not impossible, for pedestrians and vehicles alike, in this monsoon-like summer.

The Derbyshire E Division CID, to whom the investigation initially falls, quite literally has no clues, as it appears that the torrential rains have washed away any potential forensic evidence, and no apparent witnesses. DS Dianne Fry is here on short-term assignment, after DS Ben Cooper has been placed on extended leave since the tragic death in an arson fire of his fiancée, scene of crime officer Liz Petty, which ended the last book in the series. Ben is still suffering from panic attacks, nightmares, and the occasional flashbacks to that horrible event, just weeks before their meticulously planned wedding. He is still, not unnaturally, obsessed with the one person still walking free who was a participant in the events of that night.

A secondary plot line deals with another area death which falls to the local police to investigate. Ben’s relationship with Diane is a famously ambivalent one. She finds herself thinking that “his absence was more powerful than his presence.” But despite his official just-another-member-of-the-public position, he manages to provide pivotal clues and insight. Finally, “when it came down to it, there was the question of loyalty.”

The events that fill the book take place over a one-week period. The writing is less action-filled than it is wonderfully descriptive, both of local atmosphere and geography, and including as it does occasional bits of fascinating historical lore. All the better to savor the terrific writing and character development of which the author is a past master. The wholly unexpected shocker of an ending is a perfect cap for this thoroughly enjoyable novel, which is recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, December 2013.

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