Book Review: The Girl in the Ice by Robert Bryndza

The Girl in the Ice
A Detective Erika Foster Novel #6
Robert Bryndza
Grand Central Publishing, April 2018
ISBN: 978-1-5387-1342-6
Trade Paperback

This debut novel introduces DCI Erika Foster, and is the start of a new series.  The next novel in the series will be entitled The Night Stalker.   In The Girl in the Ice, she is brought in from her previous post in Manchester, where she led a flawed operation which resulted in the deaths of several police, including her husband.  Although she has yet to come to terms with her past, the detective superintendent believes her to still be an effective detective and places her in charge of the investigation of the murder of a prominent young woman from a well-to-do family.

The woman’s body is found frozen in ice.  Death was caused by strangulation.  Foster’s efforts are hampered by interference by the powerful father, a wealthy defense contractor, and police politics.  She stands her ground, but suffers for her principles and supposed clues, while attention is focused by higher-ups on other possible “clues,” which she feels are false.

Foster is a flawed character in need of growth.  Her efforts seem to be haphazard and insubordinate, resulting in her being removed as SIO of the case.  The novel progresses by fits and starts, and concludes with a denouement for which no basis is laid in the preceding chapters.  However, it is a good read and can be [and is] recommended, only hoping that the sequel overcomes these stated objections.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, August 2018.

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Book Review: Blood Orbit by K.R. Richardson

Blood Orbit
A Gattis File Novel
K.R. Richardson
Pyr, May 2018
ISBN 978-1633884397
Trade Paperback

Blood Orbit is a fascinating look at crime fighting in the distant future, set on a terra-formed planet and peopled by segregated and mixed races whose skin color often depicts their spot in the hierarchy. Sound familiar? In fact, nobody cares much when all sixteen patrons in a jasso (night club) are massacred in a dreadful, execution style blood bath. Motive for the crime is nebulous, but the powers that be want it either solved or swept under the carpet as quickly as possible.

Eric Matheson, a member of one of the most elite families in all the universe, has redirected his life to take on the duties of a rookie ofice, a private police officer, for the corporation that runs the planet of Gattis. By some fluke, he is selected to assist the lead inspector, D.J. Dillal. Dillal has recently undergone a surgery to integrate his brain with a highly evolved computer and is still healing, which, considering the stress he’s under to solve this crime, is in doubt. It’s apt to kill him first, especially as time is running out before the corporation considers destroying a whole race of people. An underground is fighting the corporation, but it’s a puzzle whether they’re working for the people’s good, or only their own benefit.

Peopled with an amazing cast of diversified characters, and with a plot that could be ripped from today’s headlines, this is a book to draw you in and keep you reading. At 492 pages, you’ll find complete, and satisfying, world-building.

My one complaint with the book concerned not the story or the writing, both of which are excellent, but the tiny, rather faded print. With my eyes not being what they used to be, I could only read for short periods of time, although if I could’ve, I would’ve.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, September 2018.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder, Four Furlongs and Hometown Homicide.

Book Review: Dead If You Don’t by Peter James

Dead If You Don’t
Roy Grace #14
Peter James
Pan McMillan, July 2018
ISBN 978-1-5098-1635-4
Hardcover

Two nightmares face Detective Superintendent Roy Grace almost immediately in the latest novel in this wonderful series of police procedurals.  First is a bomb threat in the Amex Stadium, the new home of the Albion football team in the first game in the Premier Leagues. Roy is attending with his son Bruno and notices an unattended camera in an empty seat a few rows in front of him.  Acting intuitively he grabs the instrument with merely seconds left on a timer and rushes out of the arena, tossing it as far as he can.  It doesn’t explode, but is meant to reinforce an extortion demand.

The second is the disappearance of a young lad while his father met and spoke with a client at the match.  Later, he receives a ransom demand for a quarter of a million pounds.  Grace spends the rest of the novel attempting to save the boy, while any number of murders and other mishaps arise under the purview of his High Crimes Unit.

The Roy Grace novels specialize in the meticulous attention to the investigative process in solving crimes, and Dead if You Don’t carries on this tradition.  It sometimes seems tedious, but that’s what police procedurals are all about (and give authors the chance to introduce all kinds of red herrings).  Perhaps, in this novel, this technique is carried a bit too far, with solutions offered with merely a second or two before it is too late, but we can recommend it nevertheless.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, June 2018.

Book Review: The Beethoven Conspiracy by Thomas Hauser

The Beethoven Conspiracy
Thomas Hauser
Tor Books, December 1985
ISBN 0-812-50451-8
Mass Market Paperback

A detective team of an older experienced New York cop, Richard Merritt and his young partner, Jim Dema, are confronted with a triple murder outside Lincoln Center. The three victims are young, unidentified and all have been shot to death. The case explodes when their identities are revealed along with their talents. All three are rising stars in the classical music field and missing from one is an expensive violin worth upwards of $300,000.

The detectives begin with little or no knowledge of the classical music but intense interviews and library research gradually elevates Richard Merritt’s level of understanding to useful levels. After many interviews, he meets Judith Darr who is instrumental in helping Merritt navigate the intricacies of the inflammatory case. Along the way the author has inserted sizeable quantities of the history of Beethoven and his era. It is cleverly and engagingly written and only adds to the richness of the narrative which gradually draws the reader in.

The writing is crisp, the pace appropriate for this kind of thoughtful detective novel. The violence is tastefully presented with the right kind of impact.

The novel is rich in context, both in New York and Salzburg and will satisfy readers of historical and detective fiction.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, December 2018.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
The Case of the Purloined Painting, The Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky.

Book Review: Death Rides the Ferry by Patricia Skalka

Death Rides the Ferry
A Dave Cubiak Door County Mystery #2
Patricia Skalka
University of Wisconsin Press, May 2018
ISBN 978-0-299-31800-0
Hardcover

Door County Sheriff Dave Cubiak becomes involved in a forty-year-old mystery when a woman no one knows is cleverly murdered. On a ferry crossing between Washington Island and the Door County peninsula, no less, which provides some difficult motive, means, and opportunity questions for Cubiak to solve. Her murder comes at a bad time, since the island is hosting an important music festival featuring the viola da gamba, an instrument similar to a cello. Forty years ago, during the first festival held on the island, an extremely revered instrument dating from the sixteenth century had been stolen. It isn’t long until Cubiak finds connections between this murder and that theft.

A second murder, perpetrated in the same odd manner, and also taking place on a ferry, draws in many of the same people from forty years ago. But when Cubiak’s wife, Cate, is threatened, the sheriff’s hunt for a murderer becomes personal.

Author Patricia Skalka is a master at evoking the atmosphere of a summer vacation island. One can almost feel the water lapping at one’s feet, and the mash of waves against a boat’s hull. The music, the vendors, and the diversity of people create an ambiance almost palpable.

The people, both victims and those who’d harm them, are not exactly bastions of society. Apparently everyone has secrets to hide and agendas they are determined to fulfill.

But Cubiak, his deputy, and his wife, Cate, are all tip-top people you’d want to know and root for. The personal life of Cubiak and Cate figure into the plot as well, so there’s something for everyone.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, August 2018.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder, Four Furlongs and Hometown Homicide.

Book Review: The Second Goodbye by Patricia Smiley

The Second Goodbye
A Pacific Homicide Novel #3
Patricia Smiley
Midnight Ink, December 2018
ISBN 978-0-7387-5236-5
Trade Paperback

The Second Goodbye by Patricia Smiley is the third book in her contemporary police procedural series, featuring Detective Davie Richards in the Pacific Division of the Los Angeles Police Department.

Davie’s lieutenant is determined to clear the backlog of cold cases and has all his staff working them when current crimes do not occupy their time. He’s given Davie a case that was closed out as a suicide but the original case detective thought something was off about it and the lieutenant thought so too. He wants Davie to review and investigate to find sufficient grounds to re-open it. She also is looking for the drive-by shooter of a gang member, whose hard-working conscientious family is still distraught by their son’s death.

Sara Montaine’s death was ruled a suicide because no one was around her when she was shot in a gun dealer’s store. Davie can’t seem to get a fix on who the victim was. Her stepson thought she was a gold-digger, the animal rescue she supported and a neighbor thought she was wonderful. That she appeared to live comfortably without a job before she married also raised a lot of questions.

Not surprisingly, no one in the gang member’s circle is willing to talk to Davie about the drive-by shooting but she continues to ask questions of anyone who was even peripherally known to the victim, leading to a painful and anonymous assault in the yard of one of the apartment houses where she was interviewing potential leads.

I liked the unusual plot, which unfolds at a steady pace to reveal surprises throughout with a credible motive and solution at the end. Mostly the police procedure seems accurate. Davie took a chance or two too many in this book, operating on her own when she should have taken a partner and thereby putting herself in jeopardy a little more than she needed to. Still, overall solid entertainment and worth any mystery reader’s attention.

Reviewed by Aubrey Hamilton, October 2018.

Book Review: Death of an Honest Man by M.C. Beaton

Death of an Honest Man
A Hamish Macbeth Mystery #33
M.C. Beaton
Grand Central Publishing, February 2018
ISBN: 978-1-4555-5831-5
Hardcover

All the familiar characters and nuances of the Hamish Macbeth mysteries are present in this novel.  That does not diminish the charm of the tale, which begins with a new arrival in the Scottish sergeant’s patch, one Paul English.  The newcomer prides himself for stating honest observations, which are really insults. For instance, telling an overweight woman she’s fat, or the minister his sermons are boring.  And, of course, there’s always Chief Inspector Blair and his hatred for Macbeth, and his constant attempts to take credit for crimes Macbeth solves.

Well, English’s mouth actually results in his misfortune, and he is murdered.  With any number of potential suspects, Macbeth has his work cut out for him.  A couple of subplots round out the novel: first is Macbeth’s fixation on his wild cat who apparently is no longer with him, and he finds and nurtures another in the hope that it is his lost pet; and then there is the constant loss of his assistants to the food industry.

The addition of a new novel to this long-running series is always a joy to read and “Honest Man” is good fun, and is recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, June 2018.