Gabriel Ash and Hazel Best #2
Minotaur Books, December 2014
In the first book of this new series by Jo Bannister, the highly recommended Deadly Virtues, the reader met Gabriel Ash, in his mid-20’s, “an intelligent, astute man who had once been highly regarded in national security circles,” a well-educated insurance investigator and later a Government analyst before the traumatic events of 4 years ago when his wife and two young boys had been taken by persons unknown, their present whereabouts a complete mystery.
The follow-up book takes place two months later, and reunites Gabriel with Hazel Best, a 26-year-old rookie cop, now on probation after the events which took place in that earlier novel, during which she had saved his life more than once. As the book opens, Gabriel is accompanying Hazel to visit her father, the gatekeeper at Byrfield estate, the lord of the manor being Lord Pete (“Peregrine”) Byrfield. Also present is David Sperrin, Hazel’s old friend and an archaeologist who lives with his mother on neighboring property, who shortly embarks on an excavation on Byrfield land resulting in the discovery of what is determined to be the body of a ten-year-old child in a makeshift grave, apparently dead for over 30 years. DI Edwin Norris is the cop assigned to the ensuing investigation into the child’s murder, and the identity of the murderer. In the process we learn a lot about British aristocracy, much of it fascinating.
Of course Gabriel’s family’s whereabouts, and the question of whether they are even alive, is always in the forefront of his mind. Their disappearance during Gabriel’s investigation into African pirates’ hijacking of British arms shipments has him still continuing that investigation.
The writing is wonderful throughout, in particular the author’s descriptions: “I don’t know what Guy would have grown up to be. An entertainer, possibly. Or a politician. Something where the ability to tell barefaced lies is a major advantage.” And a shopkeeper: “an elderly woman with a froth of white hair and the apple cheeks of the terminally jovial.” As in the earlier novel, all the characters are very well-drawn, especially Gabriel, Hazel, and DI Norris, and the relationship between Hazel and Gabriel seems to be evolving into something more intimate. The suspense keeps building, right up until the very last page, which ends in a cliffhanger which makes me all the more anxious to read the next book in the series, Desperate Measures, due out in December, 2015 – can’t wait!
Reviewed by Gloria Feit, August 2015.
A Song of Shadows
A Charlie Parker Thriller #14
Emily Bestler Books/Atria, September 2015
This latest Charlie Parker novel has a more intriguing plot while combining many of the elements of earlier books in the series. It begins with Charlie having survived a near fatal gunshot attack, leaving him extremely weak, renting a house on a small bay in Boreas, ME, in which to recuperate. There is only one other home on the bay, occupied by a woman, Ruth Winter, and her daughter, Amanda. In earlier decades, a large German population settled in the area, and after World War II an influx of supposed displaced persons arrived nearby.
When the body of a man washes ashore on the beach, questions are raised as to whether he is a suicide or the victim of foul play since he had traveled from Florida. Then another fact emerges: His friend and partner is found murdered in the Sunshine State, raising additional suspicion. When Ruth Winter is murdered, there can be no question there is evil in the air, and Charlie, despite his debilitation, begins to act like a detective.
So much for the background. The central theme is the post-war arrivals and their link to a Nazi concentration camp. The description of the government’s investigations to identify and deport Nazi war criminals is affecting. And Charlie’s efforts to unravel the mystery of the deaths, whether they are related, and if so to what, are, of course, aided by his usual cohorts, Louis and Angel and FBI agent Ross, along with Rabbi Epstein. Naturally a Charlie Parker novel without the presence of the Collector or introduction of the occult would not be in keeping with the series, so, naturally, both are present and play a major role in the unraveling of the plot, along with the presence of Charlie’s daughters, the living Sam and the deceased Jennifer. All in all, this is John Connolly at his best, with a most serious story, and it is highly recommended.
Reviewed by Ted Feit, September 2015.