Book Review: Before She Disappeared by Lisa Gardner @LisaGardnerBks @DuttonBooks

Before She Disappeared
Lisa Gardner
Dutton, January 2021
ISBN 987-1-5247-4504-2
Hard Cover

Lisa Gardner is a prolific writer with an on-going mystery series with Boston Detective D.D. Warren. She’s also written several stand-alones.

Before She Disappeared is a stand-alone and well worth a read. I devoured it in a couple of days.

Frankie Elkin is a recovering alcoholic who spends her days searching for missing people, people the police have given up searching for after months of no new info or clues. Frankie believes not being associated with the police gives her an edge, allowing her to approach family and friends of the missing person, meeting them on a less pressure-filled level, to possibly unearth a snippet of new information that might lead to a breakthrough.

She’s come to Boston, to an area known as Mattapan, the largest Haitian neighbourhood, to meet the aunt and brother of Angelique Lovelie Badeau, a teenager who, after leaving school one Friday afternoon eleven months ago hasn’t been seen since.

Frankie gets a job as a bartender at Stoney’s, a local popular hangout. The job comes with a room above the pub. Eager to get started she makes her way to the apartment where Guerline Violette, Angelique’s aunt and brother lives. After initially meeting some resistance, Guerline agrees to talk to her.

Frankie doesn’t ask for money, she only asks for truthful answers to her questions. Aware she’ll get some push back, she also insists on contacting the Detective in charge of the case. Frankie makes no bones about the fact that she might not find anything, but she begins with Angelique’s High School best friends, Kyra and Marjolie. After talking to the two girls Frankie is sure they know more than they are saying.

As her investigation proceeds, with a possible sighting of Angelique… another teenage girl goes missing raising the stakes. While Frankie steadily makes progress, she is painfully aware that there are forces working against her, who are prepared to do anything to stop her.

Frankie is a strong, brave yet conflicted woman, carrying some painful baggage she’s unwilling to share, which makes it easy to get swept along with her as she fights to uncover the truth.

Like me, you’ll probably read late into the night to the exciting conclusion.

Check it out…. You’ll be glad you did.

Respectfully submitted.

Reviewed by guest reviewer Moyra Tarling, February 2021.

Book Review: Deadfall by Linda Fairstein

Deadfall
An Alexandra Cooper Novel #19
Linda Fairstein
Dutton, July 2017
ISBN 978-1-1019-8404-8
Hardcover

Still reeling from her harrowing experience in the preceding novel in the series, Alex Cooper may have reason to be portrayed in Deadfall as the weak, wishy-washy female rather than the forceful prosecutor she has been in this long-running story, in which this is the 19th entry.  But it doesn’t seem to be in character. Yes, she has always enjoyed a drink.  But to almost become an alcoholic?  And to be warned and even forced to stop drinking? Sure, there is some justification when her boss and mentor, DA Battaglia, is shot in the head on the steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and falls on Alex, pushing her to the ground beneath him. But until now we have been led to believe she is made of stronger stuff.  Or perhaps she is changing as the result of her love affair with Mike Chapman, her detective boyfriend.

Be that as it may, the DA’s assassination sets off not only a murder investigation, but a much more complicated look into an international crime based on importation of narcotics and valuable animal parts, like ivory tusks, rhino horns and bones.  As part of their investigation, Alex and Detectives Mike and Mercer visit the Bronx Zoological Park, to learn more about the organization running it and the society charged with helping preserve endangered species, as well as giving the author the opportunity to exhibit her deep research into another New York City landmark.

The plot is so complicated that some readers may be put off by the book.  While the denouement is not so far fetched, it takes Ms. Fairstein several twists and turns to get there, although the conclusion is pretty much a forgone conclusion almost from the start. Probably a little simplification could have prevented making the reader work through the various machinations Alex and Mike are put through.  It’s a tough way to finally get a Dewar’s on ice.

Recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, October 2017.

A Passel of Teeny Reviews, Part 4

Once again, big surprise, I find myself with
an overload of books read but not yet reviewed
so I think it’s time for a roundup or two…

Unsub
Unsub #1
Meg Gardiner
Dutton, June 2017
ISBN 978-1-101-98552-6
Hardcover

If you’re ever in the mood for a nail-biting, gut-wrenching tale of police work, this is it. Detective Caitlin Hendrix comes very close to her own kind of obsession that plays like a counterpoint to the unsub’s sick and deadly obsession and, at times, it’s a little difficult to tell them apart. I don’t mean that literally—on the page, of course you know who is who—but the emotional turmoil that each feels has a sort of certain similarity and you can’t help wondering just how much the killer is affecting her, perhaps even twisting her mind, not to mention the agitation stemming from her own baggage. This unsub is pretty well terrifying and Ms. Gardiner had me flying through the pages.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, January 2018.

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Poor Things
Daniel Barnett
CreateSpace, June 2016
ISBN 978-1533613080
Trade Paperback

Are you ready for some creepy vibes of the horror variety? From the opening scene of a deer dying on the road, I had a sense of what the title might refer to in a vague sort of way but I wasn’t prepared for how much I would like these characters, especially Joel and a new friend, Ash, a tomboy with an inner strength and a no-nonsense attitude. A high school superjock, Joel is typically obnoxious and a bit of a bully towards his kid brother but his life changes in an instant. He’s naturally full of anger and resentment but a kernel of compassion is there. All he can really hope for is to find acceptance for his new circumstances and, just maybe, a little happiness.

Too bad there’s something evil beginning to stir, maybe the end of the world…

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, January 2018.

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Renting Silence
A Roaring Twenties Mystery #3
Mary Miley
Severn House, December 2016
ISBN 978-0-7278-8653-8
Hardcover

Jessie Beckett isn’t really a private investigator but she seems to have a knack for it so, when Mary Pickford asks her to look into a starlet’s death, she agrees, having no idea where her search for the truth will take her. Vaudeville’s colorful past, blackmail, an impending death sentence…all come into play but will these varying pieces lead Jessie to Lila Walker’s real murderer before Ruby Glynn hangs?

The mystery here is topnotch but it’s Ms. Miley‘s evocation of Hollywood in its early days that’s really the star of the show, pun intended. Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Myrna Loy, Zeppo Marx,  even Rin Tin Tin fill the pages with so much history and fun it’s easy to become mesmerized. I thoroughly enjoyed this episode in Jessie’s life and will be staring the next book, Murder in Disguise, as soon as I can.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, January 2018.

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Resurrection Mall
A Penns River Crime Novel #3
Dana King
Down & Out Books,
ISBN 978-1-943402-65-6
Trade Paperback

A town that’s down on its luck, economically speaking, is ripe for drug trade and mob activity along with a rise in petty crime and that’s what’s happened to Penns River, leading to corruption on multiple fronts and a police department that’s sorely tested. The “Resurrection Mall” of the book’s title actually is a shopping mall, one that’s being refurbished by a minister trying to help the community or so he says.

Doc Dougherty, the quintessential cop we all want on our side in a crunch, still goes home for Sunday dinner because that’s the kind of guy he is, rooted in family and the truly important things in life. Police work in Penns River is generally not exactly unusual but this time it most certainly is, beginning with the mass murders of five top level members of the drug trade.

Resurrection Mall is a little more dismal than I usually like but Mr. King‘s elegant writing, his plot development and his characters (who are refreshingly normal) all kept me going because I became invested in this Rust Belt community and in Doc. There are two earlier books and I think I’m going to have to check them out.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, January 2018.

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Crimson Earth
Modi Series #2
Anna Soliveres
Anna Soliveres, December 2015
ISBN 978-0-9960149-3-9
Trade Paperback

Aeva is a most unusual girl, even in her world that’s so different from our own, and is currently passing as the missing Queen Violet. Aeva is also right in the midst of the fight against a man who is obsessed with power, no matter what he has to do to obtain it and Aeva’s people look to her intelligence and strength to protect and lead them in this time of crisis. To do that, this remarkable young woman has become the strong, self-reliant heroine she was destined to be.

Crimson Earth is the sequel to Violet Storm which I read and enjoyed more than three years ago (https://cncbooksblog.wordpress.com/2014/09/24/book-review-violet-storm-by-anna-soliveres/). I didn’t feel quite the same connection to this second installment but I blame myself for not re-reading the first book before getting into this one and I really do recommend reading them in order to get the full effect of a really well-conceived dystopian tale.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, January 2018.

Book Review: The Stranger by Harlan Coben

The StrangerThe Stranger
Harlan Coben
Dutton, March 2015
ISBN 978-0-525-95350-0
Hardcover

From the publisher – no spoilers here:

“The Stranger appears out of nowhere, perhaps in a bar, or a parking lot, or at the grocery store.  His identity is unknown.  His motives are unclear.  His information is undeniable.  Then he whispers a few words in your ear and disappears, leaving you picking up the pieces of your shattered world.  Adam Price has a lot to lose:  A comfortable marriage to a beautiful woman, two wonderful sons, and all the trappings of the American Dream:  a big house, a good job, a seemingly perfect life.”  He introduces himself thusly:  “I’m the stranger.  The stranger with important knowledge,” or “the stranger who reveals truth.”  And proceeds to destroy, or end, lives with his information, whatever it is, different in each instance.

 

This scene is repeated in several of those anonymous settings mentioned above, each time devastating the person on the receiving end.  (For a different take, the author offers a [very apt] quote from T.S. Eliot:  “Oh my soul, be prepared for the coming of the Stranger.  Be prepared for him who knows how to ask questions.  There is one who remembers the way to your door:  Life you may evade, but Death you shall not.”

Once the Stranger imparts his information to his mostly unwilling listener, there is no way one can put that genie back in the bottle, or unring that bell, or whatever other cliché one may choose.  The unwavering theme of the novel is “secrets and lies,” and once exposed, there is no going back.  As one character says to another:  “How far would you go to protect your family?  You’d never hurt anyone, I’d never hurt anyone.  But if someone threatens your family, if it means saving your child . . .”   But we are reminded that “People will do anything to keep their secrets.  Even kill.”The name of the stranger is not revealed to the reader until more than half-way through the book.

In trademark Coben fashion, the author has given us another suspense-filled novel.  It would appear that Dutton is bringing out the author’s next thriller, Fool Me Once, on March 22, 2016, and I for one can’t wait!

Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, November 2015.

Book Reviews: The Famous and the Dead by T. Jefferson Parker, The Wrath of Angels by John Connolly, Ratlines by Stuart Neville, and The Disciple of Las Vegas by Ian Hamilton

The Famous and the DeadThe Famous and the Dead
T. Jefferson Parker
Dutton, April 2013
ISBN 978-0-525-95317-3
Hardcover

This sixth novel in the Charlie Hood series brings it to a conclusion, sort of.  A lot of loose ends are wrapped up as the story meanders back and forth, recounting various topics from the illegal flow of guns and drugs along the U.S.-Mexican border to the accompanying cartel violence.  And, of course, there is a final confrontation between and among Charlie, Bradley Jones and Mike Finnegan.

The plot, such as it is, follows Charlie’s work as an ATF agent working undercover to nab the men who buy and sell the illegal firearms which enable the escalating violence on both sides of the border.  Meanwhile, Jones awaits the birth of his son and hopes to recapture the affection of his wife Erin.  And Charlie, who knows all of Bradley’s secrets, has to decide what to do with this information.  And his obsession with Mike Finnegan consumes him and can cost him his love, Beth.

Written with the author’s straightforward, but somewhat dry, style, this concluding novel in the series is not a particularly easy or enjoyable read.  It is slow, often repetitious, especially when past events are recounted.  The characters, of course, have been and continue to be memorable.  However, this reader, at least, had to struggle through the 371 pages and was not particularly enthralled by the conclusion.  Probably the only reason to recommend the novel would because it brings a noteworthy series to a final end, by an author who is a craftsman.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, May 2013.

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The Wrath of AngelsThe Wrath of Angels
A Charlie Parker Thriller

John Connolly
Emily Bestler Books/Atria, January 2013
ISBN: 978-1-4767-0302-2
Hardcover

This 11th novel in the Charlie Parker series carries the reader deep into the surrealistic world the author once again creates.  And brings back two of the Maine detective’s betes noir:  the Collector and Brightman, the latter coming back in the form of a child after Charlie shot him to death in a different form. Of course, Angel and Louis, as well as Rabbi Epstein, get to play roles as well.

It all begins when two hunters discover a plane which had crashed in the Maine northern woods, in which are found lots of cash and a satchel containing lists of names.  And a race begins among various opposing forces to discover the lists with Charlie in the middle, prompted by the story the daughter of one of the hunters tells him which she had learned from her dying father.

The author’s ability to make the supernatural aspects of his tales almost believable defies the imagination.  The lists contain the names of people who have made a deal with the devil.  The woods are inhabited by a spectral young girl seeking to lure other bodies to keep her company.  The forces of evil are represented by fallen angels.  There is the Collector, who sits in judgment of those he would take out of circulation.  And there is always Charlie, supposedly on the side of justice.  Quite a tale, and recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, May 2013.

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RatlinesRatlines
Stuart Neville
Soho Crime, January 2013
ISBN: 978-1-616-95204-4
Hardcover

Starting with the historical fact that many Nazi war criminals escaped after World War II with fortunes stolen from their victims and became ensconced in various countries like Franco’s Spain, Peron’s Argentina and anti-British Ireland, Stuart Neville has created a first-rate mystery.  The protagonist is a Lieutenant in the Directorate of Intelligence, Albert Ryan, who lied about his age to enlist in the British army and fought in the European theater, Egypt and Korea before returning home.

Ryan is asked at the behest of the Minister of Justice to investigate the murder of a German national, weeks before a pending visit by Pres. John F. Kennedy because he fears the publicity might force cancellation of the trip.  The authorities are desirous of hiding the fact that the country is providing sanctuary to a bunch of Nazis.  Ryan’s efforts become more complicated than a mere murder investigation, and thereby hangs one helluva tale.

The title refers to escape routes by which Nazis were able to travel, avoiding detection, and the methods used to finance their travels to and establishment in new locations.  While based on historical fact, more important is the plot, which twists and turns in wholly unexpected directions.  And the character study of Ryan is deep and penetrating.  Another top-notch novel from this author, and highly recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, June 2013.

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The Disciple of Las VegasThe Disciple of Las Vegas
Ian Hamilton
Picador, February 2013
ISBN: 978-0-250-03193-8
Trade Paperback

Many years ago, around the time of the dot-com boom, an idea occurred to me for a different type of protagonist:  a security analyst who applied his/her talents to solving financial crimes.  So it was with great anticipation that I approached this novel, in which Ava Lee, a forensic accountant, works to recover funds fraudulently stolen from her clients.  After all, there isn’t too much difference between what an accountant and a security analyst does:  Both study the books of companies and work with numbers.

Unfortunately, Ms. Lee not once in this novel performs such duties.  Instead she works to recover funds by cajoling perpetrators or using strong-arm tactics or other types of pressure.  The plot is relatively simple:  The younger brother of a Filipino billionaire loses more than $60 million of company funds playing poker on the internet, having been cheated by the two men running the site.

Despite my disappointment that my vision of a more technically oriented approach to the subject does not come to pass, this novel moves along at a brisk pace and is enjoyable on its own level.  Ava is resourceful, shrewd, and capable in more ways than one.  Perhaps questionable is why the author chose to make her gay, but that is relatively unimportant unless it comes to play a role in succeeding books following this debut.

Recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, July 2013.

Book Reviews: Line of Fire by Stephen White, Lehrter Station by David Downing, and Don’t Cry, Tai Lake by Qiu Xiaolong

Line of FireLine of Fire
Stephen White
Dutton, August 2012
ISBN: 978-0-525-95252-7
Hardcover

In a note the author informs the reader that this is the next-to-the-last novel in the long-running series featuring psychotherapist Alan Gregory.  He intends to complete the series on his own terms because of the changing nature of the book industry with number 20.  Not many authors reach such a conclusion.  Even Ian Rankin had to bring back his popular Rebus protagonist.

And this book definitely sets the stage for that scenario.  The novel introduces a new patient, giving Alan some insights not only into that patient, but himself.  She also complicates his life in unexpected ways, especially as to Diane, his friend and partner.  And as usual, Boulder, CO, plays an important part in the story with brush fires raging and destroying homes.  Lastly, his friend, Detective Sam Purdy and he are exposed to unwanted risk as an old secret surfaces.

The novel slowly builds up as the various characters are brought into focus.  It is an insightful look at Alan Gregory and provides plenty of factors to consider looking forward to how the series will end.  I can’t wait to find out.  (Just an aside: the author says this is the right time to conclude the Gregory story.  Some readers may disagree. But, after all, it’s his decision alone.)

Recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, February 2013.

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Lehrter StationLehrter Station
David Downing
Soho Crime, March 2013
ISBN: 978-1-61695-220-4
Trade Paperback

Five months after the fall of Berlin, this chronicle of the adventures of John Russell, the Anglo-American journalist, and his paramour, Effi Koene, the actress, continues.  Four previous “Station” novels carried them through the pre-war years in Berlin to Russell’s escape to England.  Now, his former Russian spymaster sort of blackmails him into returning to Berlin as a spy for both the Reds and the Americans. To sugarcoat the request, Effi is offered a starring role in a soon-to-be-made motion picture.

The couple returns to a devastated city, where the only rate of exchange seems to be cigarettes and sex.  No food, housing or other essentials, but a thriving black market.  The story continues with the history of the immediate post-war, including the beginnings of the Cold War and the plight of surviving Jews, with the British reluctance to allow emigration to Palestine and the Zionists’ attempt to get around the roadblocks.

The series is more than just run-of-the-mill espionage stories, but a reflection of the time and people in an era of mass murder and terrible war and its aftermath.  The descriptions of the rubble that was Berlin after the Allied bombings and the Russian rape (it is said that there were as many as 80,000) is terrifying.   And the depiction of the duplicity of the U.S. and Soviet intelligence agencies is despicable, especially when they overlooked Nazi backgrounds when they served a purpose.  Presumably, there is room for a new effort in the series, and we look forward to it.

Recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, March 2013.

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Don't Cry, Tai LakeDon’t Cry, Tai Lake
An Inspector Chen Novel
Qiu Xiaolong
Minotaur Books, April 2013
ISBN: 978-1-250-02158-8
Trade Paperback

While ostensibly a murder mystery, this latest Inspector Chen novel is more a polemic concerning excessive pollution, economic growth at any cost and the political and social system in China today.  Still, it is so well-written, filled with poetic references as an integral part of the whole, that it is a worthy addition to the series.

Initially, Chen is invited to spend some vacation time at an exclusive resort for upper cadre (of which he isn’t one) by his mentor in Beijing who was scheduled to use a villa there.  So, right off the bat, the author offers observations on how the upper layers of officials benefit, while the rest of the population doesn’t have such luxuries.  Then Chen learns that the once pure waters of Tai Lake have become so polluted that fish are destroyed, the water can’t be drunk and even causes illness to inhabitants.  The pollution is caused by industrial waste, unimpeded in the interest of profits and “progress.”

No sooner does Chen arrive than the general manager of a large chemical company is found murdered and Chen becomes involved, without disclosing himself as a Chief Inspector, in an unofficial investigation.  He learns about the pollution from a young female engineer, and works behind the façade of a local policeman, observing, questioning and deducting in typical Chen fashion, including a long T.S. Elliot-type poem about the lake.  Other than the murder solution, the criticism of societal and economic conditions in China is anything but subtle.  [I wonder if the novel will ever be translated into Chinese.]  Here, it is recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, April 2013.

Book Reviews: Catch Me by Lisa Gardner, Accelerated by Bronwen Hruska, Creole Belle by James Lee Burke, and The Impossible Dead by Ian Rankin

Catch MeCatch Me
Lisa Gardner
Dutton, February 2012
ISBN: 978-0-525-95276-3
Hardcover

D.D. Warren, the Boston homicide detective featured in this widely-read series, faces two challenges in this latest installment: a new baby boy who keeps her and her boyfriend, Alex, up through the night and, now that she’s back from maternity leave, a complex mystery surrounding a young woman who approaches her with the admonition that she expects to be murdered four days hence and she hopes D.D. will handle the investigation. What to do?  How can you undertake the investigation of a murder that hasn’t even taken place yet?

The prospective victim’s name is Charlene, known as Charlie throughout.  She’s spent the past year in training:  running, boxing, and learning to shoot in anticipation of the big event.  It seems her two best friends were strangled on January 21 in each of the previous two years, and logic dictates that it’s now Charlie’s turn.

The plot traces the next days and the events that take place, which demonstrate D.D.’s evolving character change brought about by her domestic developments and Charlie’s preparations to meet her expected fate.  An interesting aside within the sub-plot, which addresses murders of pedophiles, involves a young boy lured into a potential sex act by the user of an internet game appealing to youngsters.  The author uses the technique to tell the story by alternating third person p.o.v. to relate D.D.’s activities, and first person describing Charlie’s.

Not a thrill a page, perhaps, but certainly an excellent thriller, and recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, July 2012.

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AcceleratedAccelerated
Bronwen Hruska
Pegasus, October 2012
ISBN:  978-1-60598-379-0
Hardcover

Once the reader gets past and accepts the initial premise of this novel, that there is an almost universal conspiracy to boost children’s learning power by declaring them victims of ADD or ADHD and prescribing Ritalin or similar drugs, then it becomes a heart-warming story.  Sean Benn, a single father (the result of his wife’s abandoning him and their young son, Toby), is pressured to dose the boy, against his better judgment, after having refused for quite some time.

It should be noted that Toby’s best friend had gone into a coma and died.  The school told everyone it was the result of a peanut allergy. Shortly afterward, Toby fell during PT, suffering from an arrhythmia, and ended up in the hospital, comatose.  From that point the plot takes off in dramatic fashion.

Certainly the novel’s raison d’etre is a significant topic.  When over-medication is routinely used to force students to accelerate their ability to learn, something is wrong.  So exposure is warranted. But to raise the possibility that this technique is so widespread across the country, aided and abetted by pharmaceutical companies, while worrisome, is kind of hard to believe.  But maybe such exaggeration is needed to make the point.  And perhaps “worrisome” is required as well.  Written with a smooth hand and tightly plotted, the book is recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, September 2012.

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Creole BelleCreole Belle
James Lee Burke
Simon & Schuster, July 2012
ISBN: 978-1-4516-4313-3
Hardcover

The latest adventures of Dave Robicheaux and Clete Purcell read like a massive morality play in 500-plus pages.  The series tales place in southern Louisiana, the bayou country and New Orleans, with all the historic corruption derived from the Civil War and slavery, the oil industry, prostitution and other societal evils.  Dave and Clete are supposed to represent the good fighting the sleaziness.

In the previous entry in the series, the duo suffered near death in a bayou shootout, and we now find Dave in a New Orleans recovery facility in a morphine-induced haze where he receives a midnight visit from Tee Jolie Mellon, a creole barroom singer who leaves him an i-pod filled with music, including three songs she sings and which apparently only he can hear.  Raising doubts that the visit was in fact real.  Meanwhile, Clete is confronted by two goons claiming they hold a marker for a debt he believes was paid off many years before. To further complicate his life, Clete witnesses his illegitimate daughter murder one of the goons.  Then Tee Jolie’s young sister washes up on the Gulf Coast in a block of ice.  An oil well blow-off fouling the environment adds to the corruption endemic to their world.

To say the very least, the plot is a highly complicated series of inter-related components weaved into a long and somewhat tiring saga. The author has stretched his formidable abilities to include wide-ranging comments on a variety of subjects, some poignant, others evocative.  But always clear and concise.  One has to question the violence performed by Dave and Clete in their quest for justice.  Is it excessive and, perhaps, unwarranted?  But certainly it is in character, and the novel is recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, October 2012.

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The Impossible DeadThe Impossible Dead
Ian Rankin
Reagan Arthur/Bay Bay Books, November 2012
ISBN 978-0-316-07877-1
Trade Paperback

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-cop 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’s 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, November 2012.