Book Reviews: Desert Rage by Betty Webb, Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch, and Me on the Floor, Bleeding by Jenny Jagerfeld

Desert RageDesert Rage
A Lena Jones Mystery
Betty Webb
Poisoned Pen Press, October 2014
ISBN: 978-1-4642-0310-7
Hardcover

Betty Webb‘s powerful series is based in part on the knowledge gained during the author’s work as an active reporter in Arizona. That information infuses her novels with a strong feeling of authenticity. Teen aged angst, misunderstandings and over-reaction lead Scottsdale private investigator Lena into a dark place where she must pit her analytical skills and persistence against both official stubbornness and a nearly diabolical adversary.

As readers of this series have come to expect, the writing is excellent, the characters are well-delineated and the story is complicated and real. Two teens, Alison and Kyle, plan to run away to Hollywood and in idle exchanges threaten to murder Alison’s family. When the family is indeed brutally murdered, the teens believe each has separately done the deed and each confesses to authorities.

Arizona Senator Julia Thorsson, with secrets of her own, hires Lena Jones to clear the teens and find the real murderer or murderers. The task leads Lena and her partner, Pima Indian computer expert Jimmy Sisawan, into a difficult case with many surprising layers.

The action is mostly intense and persistent although there are chapters in which the author seems to lose focus and the action slows considerably. However, when Lena is focused on the case at hand and not arguing with her partner the action is brisk and logical. There are indications that her journalistic zeal for the story—surrogacy, law enforcement assumptions, public attitudes toward politics gets in the way of the story. Nevertheless, the quality of the work shines through, the story is compelling and well worth any reader’s time.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, December 2014.
Author of Red Sky, Devils Island, Hard Cheese, Reunion.

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Midnight RiotMidnight Riot
Peter Grant Series #1
Ben Aaronovitch
Del Rey, February 2011
ISBN 978-0-345-52425-6
Mass Market Paperback

Oh, boy, I’ve discovered a most entertaining new (to me, at least) author! Ben Aaronovitch is writing an urban fantasy series set in present day London that’ll knock your socks off. It’s ultra amusing, featuring well-developed characters along with an imaginative take on magic.

Constable Peter Grant’s ambition is to become a detective in the London Metropolitan Police. With the weird flashes of insight that appear to him, he’s soon apprenticed to Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale, who is in charge of crimes involving magic and otherworldly manifestations. Peter sees and speaks to ghosts, you see. Who knew the London Police had a whole department devoted to magical mayhem? Who knew Peter would have such a learning curve to surmount in his advancing his career?

Peter, along with his partner, Leslie, is soon plunged into the investigation of some awful and outlandish murders, where the killers are as damaged as the dead. And then Leslie becomes a victim as well, as she is taken over by a brutal ghost, and Peter is in a harrowing race to save not only her, but her potential victims.

Aaronovitch not only provides the reader with a unique magical world set alongside the mundane, but he peoples it with all kinds of characters. You’ll find just regular folks, those with magic coursing through their veins, and even gods and goddesses walking this mortal world side-by-side. Good stuff and highly recommended.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, June 2014.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder.

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Me on the Floor, BleedingMe on the Floor, Bleeding
Jenny Jagerfeld
Stockholm Text, July 2014
ISBN 978-91-7547-011-5
Trade Paperback

Maja saws off the end of her thumb in sculpture class. What surprises her is that everyone—her friend Enzo, her teacher, even her father—believes she did it on purpose. Maja lives with her father, a music journalist, but spends every other weekend with her mother.

This weekend, when she gets off the train, her mother isn’t there to meet her. Nor is she at home. Bored sitting by herself in the apartment, thumb throbbing, Maja crashes a party next door. It’s here she meets a young woman she calls Debbie (because she looks like singer Debbie Harry) and a sexy young man in faded pink jeans, who tells her his name is “Justin Case.”

Maja resolves to find out why her mother was not at the apartment, but doesn’t tell her father what happened when she returns home. This young adult novel, a prize winner in Sweden, will appeal to readers who enjoy tales of alienated youth, although the Swedish locations and references may turn away some readers. It’s a well-crafted novel, with a thoughtful, articulate main character.

Reviewed by Susan Belsky, October 2014.