Book Reviews: The Burning Soul by John Connolly, Trackers by Deon Meyer, What It Was by George Pelecanos, A Mortal Terror by James R. Benn, and A Bitter Truth by Charles Todd

The Burning Soul
John Connolly
Atria Books, September 2011
ISBN: 978-1-4391-6527-0
Hardcover

John Connolly’s Charlie Parker Thrillers usually combine an element of the supernatural with basic detective work.  In this, the tenth in the series, the eerie aspects are slight, while the hard work of solving a case winds its way through the pages with realism and power.  It is a twisted story that begins when an attorney asks Charlie to assist a client, and unfolds with a ferocity of dynamic proportions.

It appears that the client, Randall Haight, as a 14-year-old, and with a friend, murdered a young girl in an incident with sex-related overtones. Following long jail terms, both men were released with new identities to give them a chance at rehabilitation.  Randall is now an accountant leading a quiet life in a small town on the Maine coast. And then a 14-year-old girl goes missing and Randall starts receiving reminders in the mail of his past transgression from someone who apparently has discovered his true identity.  He asks the attorney and Charlie to protect his anonymity by finding the source.  And this leads Charlie into a labyrinth of complications.

It is a gripping story, one in which the author throws red herrings into the reader’s path before unveiling a completely unexpected conclusion. Tightly written and plotted, the novel is a most welcome addition to an outstanding series and is highly recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, January 2012.

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Trackers
Deon Meyer
Atlantic Monthly Press, September 2011
ISBN: 978-0-8021-1993-3
Hardcover

Bringing back two characters from previous novels, the South African author has written a complicated story with three separate plots which are related both in circumstances and the people involved.  One theme involves what appears to be a Muslim plot, which a government intelligence service suspects at first to be a tradeoff between the smuggling of diamonds in exchange for weapons.  A second, an offshoot of the smuggling operation by a man seeking to recover a large sum of money he claims was stolen from him by gangsters (who incidentally are involved in the smuggling operation).

Then there is free-lance bodyguard Lemmer, who makes his second appearance in a Deon Meyer novel  [the first being The Blood Safari], who becomes involved indirectly in the smuggling operation when he accompanies a truck bearing two black rhinos into South Africa from a neighboring country which the gangsters believe is the method for bringing in the diamonds.  And finally Mat Joubert, the enigmatic South African detective, now retired, on his first day working for a private detective agency, who manages to bring all the threads together.

This stand-alone thriller aims high, and largely achieves its ambitions.  Adding to the spice is not only the author’s ability to portray the social, economic and political background of South Africa in depth, but a chilling look at how it is also a place where terrorists can run rampant.  And, icing on the cake, a first-rate mystery to keep the reader enthralled.  Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, January 2012.

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What it Was
George Pelecanos
Reagan Arthur Books/Back Bay Books/Little, Brown and Company, January 2012
ISBN: 978-0-316-20954-0
Paperback, 246 pp., $9.99

The year was 1972.  Derek Strange was out of the Metropolitan Police Dept. for four years and struggling to build up his PI agency.  Nixon was in the White House, but not for long.  Watergate was just up ahead.  The riots that tore the nation’s Capitol apart were some years ago, but unrest and attitude still ran strong.

Against this background George Pelecanos has written about Strange’s early career as a 26-year-old and his relationship with Detective Frank Vaughn.  It all starts when Strange is retained by a good-looking babe to find a missing ring of little “value” but “great” sentimentality.  This takes him on a journey, which enables the author to describe the crime conditions – – including a one-man murder wave – – and population and living conditions of D.C., along with almost a catalogue of the music of the era.

Written with the usual vernacular and tight prose as displayed in the previous novels in the series, the graphic details of the characters are mesmerizing.  Highly recommended.

[It should perhaps be noted that the novel is available in three different forms: the paperback, as well as a limited hardcover edition and an eBook version.]

Reviewed by Ted Feit, January 2012.

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A Mortal Terror
James R. Benn
Soho Crime, September 2011
ISBN: 978-1-56947-994-0
Hardcover

The Billy Boyle World War II Mysteries follow the progress of that conflict in this, the sixth installment, albeit it with a different twist.  It brings Billy his first murder case, either as a Boston detective (in his previous civilian life) or as “uncle” Ike’s special investigator.  But the horrors of the war in Italy, and especially the Anzio beachhead invasion, provide the backdrop for the tale.

When two officers are found murdered with clues left behind, one a ten of hearts on the body of a lieutenant and a jack of hearts on that of a Captain, the signs of a possible serial killer bent on revenge against the brass emerge, causing concern back at Eisenhower’s Supreme Headquarters.  So Billy is recalled from a three-day pass during which he met with his girlfriend in Switzerland and sent to Naples to begin an investigation into the crimes.  Then he has to face the fact that his younger brother is arriving as a replacement in the very platoon in which he suspects the killer is a member.

The author, a librarian, writes with accuracy of the difficulties and what would today be called PTSD endured by the GIs, as well as the physical hardships and psychological manifestations of infantry warfare.  His plotting is taut, descriptions graphic.  All in all, the series just keeps on getting better and better.  And the Second Front hasn’t yet been opened.  The series has a long way to go, and that’s a good thing.

Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, February 2012.

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A Bitter Truth
Charles Todd
William Morrow, September 2011
ISBN: 978-0-06-201570-9
Hardcover

This Bess Crawford mystery, set during World War I, finds her on a short leave from the front, intending to spend the Christmas holidays with her parents.  When she arrives at her apartment in London, she finds a young woman huddled on her doorstep, cold, hungry and distraught.  In sympathy, Bess takes her up to her room and learns that she has run away from her husband and home because he has abused her, and her disfigured face is proof.

From this improbable beginning, Bess becomes involved in a family’s secrets and along the way in a few murders, since she accompanies the young woman back to her home and family.  The novel rambles on, as the plot unfolds and the police fumble in an effort to solve one murder after another.  Bess returns to France, only to be recalled by the police for additional inquiries.

There are some excellent aspects to the novel, including insights into the lives of upper crust Britons of the period.  But it appeared to this reader that to bring the plot to a conclusion, the mother-son author duo reached out to contrive a solution that has little if any foundation. Nevertheless, the book is an enjoyable read and is recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, February 2012.

Book Reviews: I’d Know You Anywhere by Laura Lippman, The Two Deaths of Daniel Hayes by Marcus Sakey, A Bitter Truth by Charles Todd, The Boy in the Suitcase by Lene Kaaberbol and Agnette Friis, and Dark Mind by Jennifer Chase

I’d Know You Anywhere
Laura Lippman
William Morrow Paperbacks,
ISBN 978-0062070753
Trade Paperback

Eliza Benedict and her family have recently moved back to the United States after living several years in England.  The move was brought about by Eliza’s husband’s employment.  The children are just adjusting to the move. Eliza’s daughter Isobel (Iso) and her son Albie are in new schools and attempting to get used to life in the states after being gone so long.

Eliza’s ordinary life is suddenly interrupted when she receives a letter from Walter Bowman, a death row inmate.  Walter had spotted Eliza’s picture in a magazine and his letter states “I’d know you anywhere”.  Walter had kidnapped Eliza when she was only 15 years old.  Walter held Eliza hostage for40 days before she was finally released.  This is a part of Eliza’s life that she hasn’t shared with her children.

Eliza’s full name was Elizabeth Hortense Lerner prior to her marriage.  After her abduction, her parents moved and she entered a new school under the name of Eliza.  Only her parents, her sister Vonnie and Eliza’s husband are aware of the past circumstances until a woman who has taken up Walter’s cause finds Eliza and encourages her to talk to Walter.  Eliza finally decides after discussing the matter with her husband that she will speak with Walter. She installs a new telephone line and instructs Walter that the only hours she will be willing to answer the phone is during the time her children are away at school.  Walter wants Eliza to visit him on death row.  Eliza isn’t the only girl he kidnapped but she is the one who lived.  He indicates if she will only visit him, he will reveal information to her about the other that he has previously refused to discuss.

The story of the kidnapping is told in flashbacks.  It seems there were many times Eliza had the opportunity to escape but fear that Walter would carry out his threats to harm Eliza’s family held her back.  Eliza remembers the many days she was held by Walter and her methods of coping with a horrible situation.

This is a book that I very much enjoyed and would highly recommend.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, June 2011.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Two Deaths of Daniel Hayes
Marcus Sakey
Dutton, June 2011
ISBN 978-0525952114
Hardcover

The story begins with Daniel Hayes washed up on the beach, half dead and thousands of miles away from home.  Daniel is alone except for a car parked on the beach and abandoned.  Of course, Daniel has no idea that he is Daniel Hayes.  He has amnesia and no idea of how he arrived in the water off the coast of Maine.  The car is a BMW.  The registration says Daniel Hayes.  The clothes in the trunk happen to fit.  The gun in the glove compartment is a big surprise.  With no other options, he starts driving the BMW headed across the country. The registration says California so that is his destination.  Is he Daniel Hayes or someone that just washed up on the beach and lucked into a good car with clothes, cash, maps and even a nice Rolex watch.  He wonders how he knew the watch was a Rolex and was surprised he liked the taste of the whiskey left in the car.  With no other options available at the moment, he decides he will be Daniel Hayes – at least until he finds out something different.

As he tries to retrace his life, he finds many surprises.    He has a wife but she is dead.   Or is she dead?  That is just another story he needs to unravel.  As Daniel struggles to make sense of his life, he finds himself right in the middle of a situation that is extremely dangerous but not one that he fully understands.

The struggles Daniel goes through to regain his memory and understand his life that went before he wound up half dead on a beach in Maine is a thriller that keeps the reader on edge up to the very last page.

Marcus Sakey’s previous novels have been very successful and this one is sure to be a winner.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, June 2011.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A Bitter Truth
A Bess Crawford Mystery
Charles Todd
William  Morrow and Company, August 2011
ISBN No. 978-0062015709
Hardcover

Bess Crawford is a nurse currently stationed in France.  When she is granted leave to return to England for the Christmas holidays she welcomes the break from the war zone and looks forward to visiting her family.  Bess shares an apartment with some other nurses and it is not uncommon for her to have the place to herself since her roommates all have assignments.  Upon arriving at her apartment building, Bess finds a young woman huddled in the doorway.  The woman is well dressed and appears to be bruised as well as suffering from the cold.    Her clothing is not designed to keep her warm.  Bess convinces the woman to take refuge in her apartment.

The young woman finally confides in Bess that her name is Lydia Ellis and she resides in Sussex.  She had quarreled with her husband, Captain Roger Ellis, and Captain Ellis had struck her.    Eventually after hearing bits and pieces of Lydia’s story Bess convinced her to return to her home in Sussex and attempt to work out her problems.  Lydia’s husband was home on compassionate leave due to the illness of his brother Alan.  Alan had recently passed away.

Lydia begged Bess to return to Sussex with her to Vixen Hill the Ellis family home.  Bess agrees although Simon Brandon was not thrilled with the idea. Simon is a long time family friend who had served with Bess’ father and is very protective of Bess.  On arrival at Vixen Hill, Bess finds that plans are underway for a memorial service for Alan and family members are gathering.  Bess learns of the tragic death of Roger’s young sister years ago, a death from which none of the family seems to have completely recovered.

Soon there is another death to be investigated when a friend of the family who was staying at Vixen Hill is found murdered.  Bess is drawn into the investigation and soon learns more about the family than she ever wanted to know. Lydia has heard rumors that her husband had a child with a woman in France and that the child is the image of his dead sister.  Lydia begs Bess to look for the child when she returns to France.

Bess makes no promises but when she returns to France, she does make inquiries.  Bess confides in a soldier from Australia who takes up the search for the child.  In war torn France there are hundreds of orphans and many of the Sisters carrying for them have to move from place to place due to the war.

The story jumps back and forth between the war front and England and there is no lack of excitement on either front.  This is a good addition to the Bess Crawford mysteries and there is more than one puzzle to solve.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, September 2011.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Boy In the Suitcase
Lene Kaaberbol and Agnette Friis
Soho Crime, November 2011
ISBN 978-1569479810
Hardcover

When Nina Borg, a nurse, agrees to do her friend Karin a favor and pick up a suitcase from a locker in the Copenhagen train station, she thought it would be a simple errand. The errand turned out to be far from simple and extremely dangerous.  When Nina opened the suitcase, she found a small boy, naked and drugged.  Should she call the police and turn the child over to the authorities?  This is the question she kept asking herself but finally determined that the authorities might not do what was in the boy’s best interest.

Meanwhile, the boy’s mother, Sigita was frantic.  Sigita woke up in a hospital with no idea how she got there but is told that she was found in a drunken state after falling down the steps from her apartment.  All Sigita knew was that she did not drink to excess, she has no memory of drinking or falling and her child, Mikas, is gone.  A neighbor tells Sigita that the boy’s father had picked him up but when Sigita is finally able to reach Mikas’ father she finds that he knows nothing about where his son might be.

Nina finally finds out where Karin is and goes to meet her.  When Nina gets to the cabin where Karin is staying, she finds that Karin has been murdered.  There is no clue as to the boy’s identity or why Karin asked Nina to pick up the suitcase.   Nina is quick to realize that agreeing to do a favor for a friend has placed both her and the boy in danger.

The story turns into a race against time with Nina trying to find any clue to help her identify the boy and return him to his family while ignoring her own husband and children who are concerned for Nina’s whereabouts.

Sigita who has reported her child’s loss to the authorities goes about her own investigation into his disappearance and is doing everything she can think of to find her son even though she senses that time is running out.  Sigita was forced to give up her first baby and now to think of losing her son is too horrible to imagine.

The puzzle of why Mikas was abducted and the purpose behind the abduction is one that remains a secret until the surprise ending of this novel.  Finally, it all comes together and makes for a very exciting book.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, November 2011.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Dark Mind
An Emily Stone Novel
Jennifer Chase
JEC Press, November 2011
ISBN No.978-0982953648
Trade Paperback

This third addition to the Emily Stone series finds Emily and Rick Lopez on the beautiful island of Kauai in the Hawaiian Islands.  Rick has given up his position as a police officer to join Emily in her undercover operation tracking serial killers with the emphasis on child abductors.  Emily was a former police officer.

Rick and Emily are able to rescue a child that was kidnapped by slave brokers.  When the police arrive at the scene, the couple meets Sergeant Lani Candena of the local police department.

The couple feel their trip has been successful and decide to stay on the island and enjoy a little vacation time.  It isn’t long before they hear rumors of a vicious murder.  Rick and Emily go to the scene of the crime and wait for the police to leave. Rick and Emily take a look at the scene.  Once again they run up against Sergeant Lani Candena of the of the local police department.

Lani is an ambitious officer and when there is a second murder, he feels sure that he has a serial killer on his hands.  The killings are staged in a horrible manner and Emily and Rick are convinced the killer must be a local resident.  Lani’s superior officers in the department are more interested in making a profit for themselves in the shady deals they are involved in than finding the killer.

Derek McGraw, an old friend of Rick and Emily, joins the couple on the island.  The three of them work on putting the few clues they have been able to put together in an attempt to locate the killer.  Sgt. Candena is aware that the trio is very interested in the murders.  He eventually convinces the group to work with him in an attempt to hunt down the killer.

The action in Dark Mind is non-stop.   Emily is lucky to survive the hunt.  This novel can be read as a stand-alone but I would also recommend Compulsion and Dead Game, the two previous Emily Stone novels.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, January 2012.

Book Reviews: I'd Know You Anywhere by Laura Lippman, The Two Deaths of Daniel Hayes by Marcus Sakey, A Bitter Truth by Charles Todd, The Boy in the Suitcase by Lene Kaaberbol and Agnette Friis, and Dark Mind by Jennifer Chase

I’d Know You Anywhere
Laura Lippman
William Morrow Paperbacks,
ISBN 978-0062070753
Trade Paperback

Eliza Benedict and her family have recently moved back to the United States after living several years in England.  The move was brought about by Eliza’s husband’s employment.  The children are just adjusting to the move. Eliza’s daughter Isobel (Iso) and her son Albie are in new schools and attempting to get used to life in the states after being gone so long.

Eliza’s ordinary life is suddenly interrupted when she receives a letter from Walter Bowman, a death row inmate.  Walter had spotted Eliza’s picture in a magazine and his letter states “I’d know you anywhere”.  Walter had kidnapped Eliza when she was only 15 years old.  Walter held Eliza hostage for40 days before she was finally released.  This is a part of Eliza’s life that she hasn’t shared with her children.

Eliza’s full name was Elizabeth Hortense Lerner prior to her marriage.  After her abduction, her parents moved and she entered a new school under the name of Eliza.  Only her parents, her sister Vonnie and Eliza’s husband are aware of the past circumstances until a woman who has taken up Walter’s cause finds Eliza and encourages her to talk to Walter.  Eliza finally decides after discussing the matter with her husband that she will speak with Walter. She installs a new telephone line and instructs Walter that the only hours she will be willing to answer the phone is during the time her children are away at school.  Walter wants Eliza to visit him on death row.  Eliza isn’t the only girl he kidnapped but she is the one who lived.  He indicates if she will only visit him, he will reveal information to her about the other that he has previously refused to discuss.

The story of the kidnapping is told in flashbacks.  It seems there were many times Eliza had the opportunity to escape but fear that Walter would carry out his threats to harm Eliza’s family held her back.  Eliza remembers the many days she was held by Walter and her methods of coping with a horrible situation.

This is a book that I very much enjoyed and would highly recommend.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, June 2011.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Two Deaths of Daniel Hayes
Marcus Sakey
Dutton, June 2011
ISBN 978-0525952114
Hardcover

The story begins with Daniel Hayes washed up on the beach, half dead and thousands of miles away from home.  Daniel is alone except for a car parked on the beach and abandoned.  Of course, Daniel has no idea that he is Daniel Hayes.  He has amnesia and no idea of how he arrived in the water off the coast of Maine.  The car is a BMW.  The registration says Daniel Hayes.  The clothes in the trunk happen to fit.  The gun in the glove compartment is a big surprise.  With no other options, he starts driving the BMW headed across the country. The registration says California so that is his destination.  Is he Daniel Hayes or someone that just washed up on the beach and lucked into a good car with clothes, cash, maps and even a nice Rolex watch.  He wonders how he knew the watch was a Rolex and was surprised he liked the taste of the whiskey left in the car.  With no other options available at the moment, he decides he will be Daniel Hayes – at least until he finds out something different.

As he tries to retrace his life, he finds many surprises.    He has a wife but she is dead.   Or is she dead?  That is just another story he needs to unravel.  As Daniel struggles to make sense of his life, he finds himself right in the middle of a situation that is extremely dangerous but not one that he fully understands.

The struggles Daniel goes through to regain his memory and understand his life that went before he wound up half dead on a beach in Maine is a thriller that keeps the reader on edge up to the very last page.

Marcus Sakey’s previous novels have been very successful and this one is sure to be a winner.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, June 2011.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A Bitter Truth
A Bess Crawford Mystery
Charles Todd
William  Morrow and Company, August 2011
ISBN No. 978-0062015709
Hardcover

Bess Crawford is a nurse currently stationed in France.  When she is granted leave to return to England for the Christmas holidays she welcomes the break from the war zone and looks forward to visiting her family.  Bess shares an apartment with some other nurses and it is not uncommon for her to have the place to herself since her roommates all have assignments.  Upon arriving at her apartment building, Bess finds a young woman huddled in the doorway.  The woman is well dressed and appears to be bruised as well as suffering from the cold.    Her clothing is not designed to keep her warm.  Bess convinces the woman to take refuge in her apartment.

The young woman finally confides in Bess that her name is Lydia Ellis and she resides in Sussex.  She had quarreled with her husband, Captain Roger Ellis, and Captain Ellis had struck her.    Eventually after hearing bits and pieces of Lydia’s story Bess convinced her to return to her home in Sussex and attempt to work out her problems.  Lydia’s husband was home on compassionate leave due to the illness of his brother Alan.  Alan had recently passed away.

Lydia begged Bess to return to Sussex with her to Vixen Hill the Ellis family home.  Bess agrees although Simon Brandon was not thrilled with the idea. Simon is a long time family friend who had served with Bess’ father and is very protective of Bess.  On arrival at Vixen Hill, Bess finds that plans are underway for a memorial service for Alan and family members are gathering.  Bess learns of the tragic death of Roger’s young sister years ago, a death from which none of the family seems to have completely recovered.

Soon there is another death to be investigated when a friend of the family who was staying at Vixen Hill is found murdered.  Bess is drawn into the investigation and soon learns more about the family than she ever wanted to know. Lydia has heard rumors that her husband had a child with a woman in France and that the child is the image of his dead sister.  Lydia begs Bess to look for the child when she returns to France.

Bess makes no promises but when she returns to France, she does make inquiries.  Bess confides in a soldier from Australia who takes up the search for the child.  In war torn France there are hundreds of orphans and many of the Sisters carrying for them have to move from place to place due to the war.

The story jumps back and forth between the war front and England and there is no lack of excitement on either front.  This is a good addition to the Bess Crawford mysteries and there is more than one puzzle to solve.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, September 2011.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Boy In the Suitcase
Lene Kaaberbol and Agnette Friis
Soho Crime, November 2011
ISBN 978-1569479810
Hardcover

When Nina Borg, a nurse, agrees to do her friend Karin a favor and pick up a suitcase from a locker in the Copenhagen train station, she thought it would be a simple errand. The errand turned out to be far from simple and extremely dangerous.  When Nina opened the suitcase, she found a small boy, naked and drugged.  Should she call the police and turn the child over to the authorities?  This is the question she kept asking herself but finally determined that the authorities might not do what was in the boy’s best interest.

Meanwhile, the boy’s mother, Sigita was frantic.  Sigita woke up in a hospital with no idea how she got there but is told that she was found in a drunken state after falling down the steps from her apartment.  All Sigita knew was that she did not drink to excess, she has no memory of drinking or falling and her child, Mikas, is gone.  A neighbor tells Sigita that the boy’s father had picked him up but when Sigita is finally able to reach Mikas’ father she finds that he knows nothing about where his son might be.

Nina finally finds out where Karin is and goes to meet her.  When Nina gets to the cabin where Karin is staying, she finds that Karin has been murdered.  There is no clue as to the boy’s identity or why Karin asked Nina to pick up the suitcase.   Nina is quick to realize that agreeing to do a favor for a friend has placed both her and the boy in danger.

The story turns into a race against time with Nina trying to find any clue to help her identify the boy and return him to his family while ignoring her own husband and children who are concerned for Nina’s whereabouts.

Sigita who has reported her child’s loss to the authorities goes about her own investigation into his disappearance and is doing everything she can think of to find her son even though she senses that time is running out.  Sigita was forced to give up her first baby and now to think of losing her son is too horrible to imagine.

The puzzle of why Mikas was abducted and the purpose behind the abduction is one that remains a secret until the surprise ending of this novel.  Finally, it all comes together and makes for a very exciting book.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, November 2011.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Dark Mind
An Emily Stone Novel
Jennifer Chase
JEC Press, November 2011
ISBN No.978-0982953648
Trade Paperback

This third addition to the Emily Stone series finds Emily and Rick Lopez on the beautiful island of Kauai in the Hawaiian Islands.  Rick has given up his position as a police officer to join Emily in her undercover operation tracking serial killers with the emphasis on child abductors.  Emily was a former police officer.

Rick and Emily are able to rescue a child that was kidnapped by slave brokers.  When the police arrive at the scene, the couple meets Sergeant Lani Candena of the local police department.

The couple feel their trip has been successful and decide to stay on the island and enjoy a little vacation time.  It isn’t long before they hear rumors of a vicious murder.  Rick and Emily go to the scene of the crime and wait for the police to leave. Rick and Emily take a look at the scene.  Once again they run up against Sergeant Lani Candena of the of the local police department.

Lani is an ambitious officer and when there is a second murder, he feels sure that he has a serial killer on his hands.  The killings are staged in a horrible manner and Emily and Rick are convinced the killer must be a local resident.  Lani’s superior officers in the department are more interested in making a profit for themselves in the shady deals they are involved in than finding the killer.

Derek McGraw, an old friend of Rick and Emily, joins the couple on the island.  The three of them work on putting the few clues they have been able to put together in an attempt to locate the killer.  Sgt. Candena is aware that the trio is very interested in the murders.  He eventually convinces the group to work with him in an attempt to hunt down the killer.

The action in Dark Mind is non-stop.   Emily is lucky to survive the hunt.  This novel can be read as a stand-alone but I would also recommend Compulsion and Dead Game, the two previous Emily Stone novels.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, January 2012.

Book Review: The Last Place by Laura Lippman—and a Contest Winner!

Congratulations to Robin Burcell,

winner of The Expats by Chris Pavone!!

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The Last Place
Laura Lippman
William Morrow, October 2002
ISBN 0380978199
Hardcover

Tess Monaghan, Baltimore private investigator, is in trouble with the law, all because she and her friend, Whitney, tracked down a guy who uses the internet to prey on young girls and then proceeded to humiliate him in a rather unique way. Now, Tess is sentenced to 6 months of weekly anger management therapy. Tess, of course, does not think she needs this at all.

Feeling bad for getting her friend into this, Whitney gets Tess a job with one of her foundations, a job that seems simple on the surface. All Tess has to do is look into the quality of the police work done on five domestic violence cases across the state. Why, then, does it begin to look as though these cases may be connected to each other somehow?

Tess hooks up with Carl Dewitt who, as a Toll Facilities cop, had found one of the bodies or, at least, part of it. He’s retired on disability now but has never forgotten this case—in fact, he seems to be nearly obsessed with it. He convinces Tess that there’s more to the case than meets the eye and they team up to do their own investigation. What this will lead to is far more frightening than either Tess or Carl could possibly imagine.

Author Laura Lippman is a master of the  suspense genre and this latest in the Tess Monaghan series is no exception. A number of authors have attempted the dual point-of-view style but Ms. Lippman is one of the few who can do it effectively, telling the story from Tess’s viewpoint while periodically interjecting the killer’s thoughts. This is one of those books I simply could not put down until I had finished it and then I was left with a lingering sense of dread—the perfect suspense thriller in my opinion.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, 2002.
Review first published on murderexpress.net in 2002.

Book Review: Murder Half-Baked by Kathleen Delaney

Murder Half BakedMurder Half-Baked
Kathleen Delaney
Camel Press, May 2011
ISBN 978-1-60381-828-5
Trade Paperback

Real estate agent Ellen McKenzie is in the midst of preparations for her wedding to Dan Dunham, the local police chief, and has to contend with the horror of a wedding dress, ruffled hoopskirt and all, her mother has sent to this forty-something bride. The wedding is just a few weeks away, finding a caterer is proving to be the seemingly impossible dream and there’s a problem with the wedding cake, a big problem.  Thanks to Ellen’s and Dan’s moms, the guest list is growing past the point of no return and even the flowers aren’t going to be what Ellen wanted.

In the meantime, Grace House, a home for women who are in a difficult time in their lives and in need of some assistance, is bursting at the seams. Ellen has been asked to sell the current house and find a bigger one, not an easy task in the currently stressed real estate market.  Dr. Owen Sadler’s wife, Francis, left a legacy to Grace House and, if  Owen donates more as expected, the board of directors will have the funds needed to pay for a new location.

Unfortunately, Dr. Sadler won’t be making that donation. There is no shortage of people who don’t like the unpleasant man and one of them has apparently bashed his head in at the cemetery.  Not long after, Grace House burns to the ground and arson is suspected.  Dan and Ellen offer their home as a temporary haven for the residents of Grace House and that puts Ellen right in the middle of the investigation whether Dan likes it or not.

Murder Half-Baked would seem, on the surface, to be in the “cozy” subgenre but that label doesn’t quite do full justice to this story.  Much attention is paid to the grim facts of domestic violence and dark family secrets and the author blends those themes well with the usual cozy attributes. The result is appealing and a bit edgy. I must also commend the author, and perhaps her editor, for a job well done when it comes to writing style and the quality of the actual product—what a pleasure it is to read a good story with attention paid to such pesky details as grammar and spelling!

Delaney has given her fans a nice follow-up to And Murder for Dessert and I will look forward to the next in the series as well as the first in the new series she has making the rounds with her agent.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, November 2011.

Book Review: Safe Beginnings by Christine Duncan

Safe Beginnings
Christine Duncan
Treble Heart Books
July 2002
ISBN 1931742855
Paperback

Kaye Berreano is the counselor on duty at Beginnings, a battered women’s shelter, when the fire alarm goes off. Kaye hurries to get all the women and their children out of the building but Mary Ellen, a woman apparently disliked by nearly everyone, doesn’t make it. Early investigations reveal that the fire was deliberately set and Farrell, the police arson investigator, believes Kaye is withholding information.

Since some of the women need to be placed elsewhere, Kaye’s job security is in doubt, at a time when she is going through an ugly divorce and her financial situation is very shaky. The police don’t seem to be getting anywhere useful, even thinking the victim may have set the fire to cover her own suicide, and Kaye begins her own investigation. Unfortunately, since this is a battered women’s shelter, there are quite a few potential suspects among the abusive husbands and boyfriends. In addition, more than one of the women may have had a motive. She’s sure, though, that Mary Ellen did not kill herself. Digging into the lives of these abused women, Kaye finds some surprises and even more questions, about Mary Ellen’s death. Ultimately, she must come to terms with her own life and future.

Most of us, thankfully, will never know what it’s like to live with abuse and what that can do to the soul. Author Christine Duncan has cracked the door to this world just a little bit, with empathy and understanding, through a woman with problems of her own. Kaye’s desire to protect these women and children while encouraging them to break the cycle of pain makes her a woman I’ll look forward to meeting again.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, 2002.
Review first published on murderexpress.net in 2002.

Book Review: The Perfect Couple by Brenda Novak

The Perfect Couple
Brenda Novak
Mira Books
ISBN 0778326675
Mass Market

Tiffany’s got simple instructions from her husband, Colin.  Dump ‘Rover’s’ body.  When she hears sounds and screaming from the trunk, she realizes the boy is alive.  A frantic call to Colin and he tells her to kill the kid and dump him.  Unfortunately for her, the boy manages to get away and she’s terrified Colin will hurt her for it.

Meanwhile, thirteen year old Samantha is sunbathing in her backyard.  She’s got mono and is feeling weak and miserable.  When she hears her next door neighbor Tiffany in distress, Sam goes to the fence to help.

Seeing her opportunity to make up with Colin, Tiffany cons Samantha to come into her house where the girl’s locked into a soundproofed bonus room over the garage.

The Perfect Couple

Sam’s mom, Zoe, is completely distraught when she discovers that her daughter is missing.  She takes her troubles to a friend who runs The Last Stand, a charitable service to help parents in need.  Thus enters Jonathan, a detective who’s got a bad history with picking a woman in love with someone else…

When I saw Brenda Novak’s book available on Vine, I grabbed it without thought and consideration of the difference between the classifications of mystery and romantic suspense. Prior to this, I have read Ms. Novak’s work and thoroughly enjoyed her writing; however, for several reasons, this book is not one I personally enjoyed.

However, Ms. Novak did a superlative job showing us the mind of Colin, seemingly half of a ‘perfect couple’, who is actually a sociopathic abuser of his spouse and children.

Personally, this is a deeper point of view of both an abuser and his victims than I would ever want to take.  “Perfect Couple” did have me turning pages just to read the end, but I would never want to put myself through reading a book like this again. While the abuse was spoken of in the past tense, this is definitely a hard read and not one I would recommend to everyone.

Reviewed by Becky Kyle, January 2010.