Book Review: Queen’s Gambit by Bradley Harper @bharperauthor @SeventhStBooks

Queen’s Gambit
A Mystery Featuring Margaret Harkness
Bradley Harper
Seventh Street Books, September 2019
ISBN 978-1-64506-001-7
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Spring, 1897. London. Margaret Harkness, now in her early forties, must leave England for her health but lacks the funds. A letter arrives from her old friend Professor Bell, her old comrade in the hunt for Jack the Ripper and the real-life inspiration for Sherlock Homes. Bell invites her to join him in Germany on a mysterious mission for the German government involving the loss of state secrets to Anarchists. The resolution of this commission leads to her being stalked through the streets of London by a vengeful man armed with a powerful and nearly silent air rifle who has both Margaret and Queen Victoria in his sights. Margaret finds allies in Inspector James Ethington of Scotland Yard and his fifteen-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, who aspires to follow in Margaret’s cross-dressing footsteps.

The hunt is on, but who is the hunter, and who the hunted as the day approaches for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee when the aged empress will sit in her open carriage at the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral? The entire British Empire holds its breath as the assassin, Margaret, and the Queen herself play for the highest of stakes with the Queen’s Gambit.

I wouldn’t want to have lived in the Victorian era but I really do enjoy reading books set in the period and, with an author’s effective worldbuilding, getting immersed in it. Bradley Harper does that for me very well.  Not only can I envision myself settling in for a chat with Margaret and all her friends; I think I would truly like these people should they suddenly become real today (many actually were real more than a hundred years ago).

I did miss having more of Margaret’s interactions with Arthur Conan Doyle and Professor Bell as I had enjoyed those characters so much in the first book but James and Elizabeth were delightful additions to the cast. Also, Queen Victoria comes across as a woman to be reckoned with, perhaps a sort of role model for young women who resist their “place” in the world. Margaret is one of those young women, a journalist and author who dares to overstep the bounds of her time.

After her adventures with Doyle and Bell, I found this latest undertaking a little less engaging which is more than a little ridiculous when you think about it. I mean, Margaret and company are involved in international intrigue and trying to prevent anarchists’ terrorist activities; what more could I possibly want? Let’s just chalk it up to my own fascination with Jack the Ripper and the efforts of the Victorian police 😉

One of my favorite parts of this book is the Afterword in which Mr. Harper provides tidbits of very interesting information regarding the people and events depicted in this novel based on facts. After an ending that made me tear up more than a little, I’m truly anticipating the next book featuring the intrepid Margaret Harkness, should there be one, and I certainly hope there will be.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2019.

Book Reviews: A Casualty of War by Charles Todd and The Gate Keeper by Charles Todd

A Casualty of War
A Bess Crawford Mystery #9
Charles Todd
William Morrow, September 2017
ISBN: 978-0-0626-7878-2
Hardcover

In the waning days of WWI, Bess Crawford was stationed at a forward medical base close to the fighting when a Captain was brought in with a head wound.  It turned out that the bullet merely scraped his scalp and he returned to his men the next day, but he claimed he was shot by a British lieutenant resembling his great grandfather, perhaps his cousin, Lieutenant James Travis. A few days later, he was returned to the facility, shot in the back.  Again he told Bess the same man shot him.  Bess got to know the Captain and believed his story.

The Armistice soon took place, and Bess was asked to accompany a convoy of wounded back to England and was granted a week’s leave.  Instead of visiting home in Somerset, accompanied by Sgt. Major Brandon, she traveled to a hospital in Wiltshire where the Captain was being treated.   She was appalled to find him strapped to his bed under horrible conditions (the medical staff thought him mad because of his outbursts regarding his claim to have been shot by a relative, attributing his condition to his head wound).  Strengthening the diagnosis was the fact that James was killed a year before.  Bess insisted he be unshackled and permitted to enjoy fresh air.

She then traveled to Sussex, James’ home, to determine the accuracy of James’ death, discovering even more complications, including the fact that after a brief meeting in Paris earlier in the war, James named the Captain his heir.   Meanwhile, the Captain escapes from the Wiltshire hospital when taken for a walk.  And the story goes on as the complications of the plot unfolds.  The Bess Crawford mysteries, of which this is the ninth, artfully weave the agonies of war with the crimes Bess attempts to solve. With the end of the war on the 11th day of the 11th month at the 11th hour, where will the series now go?  It deserves to continue in peace, as well!

Recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, February 2018.

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

The Gate Keeper
An Inspector Ian Rutledge Mystery #20
Charles Todd
William Morrow, February 2018
ISBN: 978-0-0626-7871-3
Hardcover

Charles Todd, the mother-son writing team, offers two different series:  The Gate Keeper is from the Inspector Ian Rutledge mystery series (the other is the Bess Crawford novels).  Both series take place in a similar time frame, during or after World War I, and are based in England (or France, of course, in the trenches).  Rutledge served as a Captain and saw bloody action and was responsible for the execution of his Corporal, Hamish McCleod, who refused orders to lead his men into another futile charge over the top.  Hamish still haunts Rutledge, and his memory serves as sort of assistant to the Inspector by offering observations and warnings when warranted.

As a result of shell shock, Rutledge was, for a time, treated for his mental condition, but now serves as a Scotland Yard detective.  Since his release from the hospital, he has been living in the family home with his sister, who is married at the start of this novel.  Returning from the wedding, he is unable to sleep and decides to go for a drive, ending up far away from his London apartment, where he finds himself witness to a murder.  He insists on taking over the investigation and when another murder occurs, it becomes more important to uncover the reason for each.  Rutledge learns of a third murder far away that might be related to the two he is working on, but it is assigned to another Scotland Yard detective.

The plot is fairly simple, but the solution is a lot more complicated and unexpected.  Rutledge plods on until he finds a common thread to all three murders, then has to turn his attention to the question of who has actually performed the murders.  And this he does with smoothness in this, the 20th novel in the series.  On to the 21st.

Recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, February 2018.

Book Review: Mrs. Jeffries Rights a Wrong by Emily Brightwell

Mrs. Jeffries Rights a Wrong
A Victorian Mystery #35
Emily Brightwell
Berkley Prime Crime, May 2017
ISBN 978-0-399-58420-6
Trade Paperback

Inspector Witherspoon has the best household staff in all of Victorian London. A wealthy man, he’s still dedicated to justice for everyone, and his staff is determined to help him bring that about. The hardest part is convincing him he discovered all the clues himself. when he’s called upon to solve a murder.

When a despicable shyster con artist is murdered in his hotel room, no one is particularly sorry. Apparently everyone he came in contact with had a motive, but do the seeds of this crime lie in the past or in the present? This is what Mrs. Jeffries, Inspector Witherspoon’s stellar housekeeper, has the staff trying to find out. They work like well-oiled cogs in a fancy machine as they work their way through the mystery. All this and they manage to keep up their other duties too.

These are quite a diverse and egalitarian group for Victorian England, enjoyable for their differences. The dialogue seems suitable for who is speaking, the action never falters, and the descriptions are good, putting the reader right in place to observe.

Mrs. Jeffries never fails to put the Inspector in the way of catching the crook. There must be at least two dozen of these tales for readers to enjoy, and you probably won’t be able to stop at just one.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, August 2017.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder, Four Furlongs and Hometown Homicide.

Book Review: The Laws of Murder by Charles Finch—and a Giveaway!

The Laws of MurderThe Laws of Murder
A Charles Lenox Mystery #8
Charles Finch
Minotaur Books, November 2014
ISBN 978-250-05130-1
Hardcover

From the publisher—

It’s 1876, and Charles Lenox, once London’s leading private investigator, has just given up his seat in Parliament after six years, primed to return to his first love, detection.  With high hopes he and three colleagues start a new detective agency, the first of its kind.  But as the months pass, and he is the only detective who cannot find work, Lenox begins to question whether he can still play the game as he once did.

Then comes a chance to redeem himself, though at a terrible price: a friend, a member of Scotland Yard, is shot near Regent’s Park.  As Lenox begins to parse the peculiar details of the death – an unlaced boot, a days-old wound, an untraceable luggage ticket – he realizes that the incident may lead him into grave personal danger, beyond which lies a terrible truth.

I’ve been a fan of this series since the very first book, A Beautiful Blue Death, came out in 2007. Somehow, I always know that I can count on Charles Finch to make the newest adventure just as fresh and entertaining as the one before and The Laws of Murder did not disappoint me in any way.

Scotland Yard hires Charles Lenox to aid in the investigation into the murder of one of its own, Inspector Thomas Jenkins. This is much more personal than some of his earlier cases since he had counted the inspector as a friend despite the unkind comments Jenkins had made in the newspapers about the agency and its unlikelihood of success.

The inner workings of the detective agency Charles formed with his partners—Lenox, Dallington, Strickland and DeMaire—are a real treat as we get to see more of how crime fighters did things back in the 1870’s with none of the fancy tools we have today like DNA testing, ballistics and technological gadgets such as cellphones and computers. Not everyone wishes the agency well, as seen in the territorial distrust and contempt coming from most of the Yard and the antipathy of the press, and Lenox seems to be having a bit of trouble getting back into the business of investigation after his seven years in Parliament.

As the investigation proceeds, Lenox and his partners find themselves drawn into a very shady mix of the criminal world and the highest levels of society. What could Jenkins have had to with the Slavonian Club and its dirty secrets and who is trying so hard to destroy Lenox, Dallington, Strickland and DeMaire?

Along with the principles, especially Charles, John and Polly,  I enjoyed spending time with old favorites Graham and Lady Jane in The Laws of Murder. Mr. Finch has a particular talent in both plot development and in building vibrant characters, including the city of London itself. This entry in the series is one of my favorites because it brings Charles Lenox out of the worthy but stultifying halls of the House of Lords and back into the vocation he loves, detecting. It’s nice to have him back in the thick of things.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, October 2014.

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

The Laws of Murder by Charles Finch
will be released on November 11th but
you could win
an Advance Reading Copy
from publisher Minotaur Books! To enter
the drawing, leave a comment below. The
winning name will be drawn Tuesday
evening, October 14th. This drawing is
open to residents of the US and Canada.

 

Book Reviews: Shadowkiller by Wendy Corsi Staub and Proof of Guilt by Charles Todd

ShadowkillerShadowkiller
Wendy Corsi Staub
Harper, February 2013
ISBN No. 978-0-06-207032-6
Mass Market Paperback

Shadowkiller ends the trilogy involving the family of Allison Taylor, now Allison MacKenna.  Allison met her husband Mack when she lived in Manhattan and her apartment was across the hall from Mack and his wife.  Mack’s wife was killed in the 9-11 tragedy and Allison’s friend was murdered in their apartment building.

Allison and Mack eventually married and moved to the suburbs but they found that life was not to be smooth for the couple and their family.   Someone is stalking the family and at times even Allison suspects the person causing the problems might be Mack.  Eventually the truth is found out but not before even the children have a very close call.

Life has gone back to normal for the family and Allison has even agreed to make a trip to the Midwest to visit her brother and his wife.  Allison’s father left when she was young and her mother killed herself with liquor and drugs.  It is a very large step for Allison to agree to travel back to the Midwest.

But the MacKenna family aren’t alone on the trip.  Mack’s wife, who was thought to have died in the 9-11 tragedy, is alive and determined to have a show-down with Allison.  The connection between the two women is finally revealed in this exciting conclusion.  With the intervention of Detective Rocko Manzillo, who has knowledge of the MacKenna’s background, Allison might just get out alive.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, February 2013.

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

Proof of GuiltProof of Guilt
(An Inspector Ian Rutledge Mystery)
Charles Todd
William Morrow, January 2013
ISBN No. 978-0-06-201568-6
Hardcover

When Ian Rutledge is assigned to head up an investigation involving an unidentified body, Rutledge has a difficult job.  First, he must identify the body and that does not prove to be an easy task.  Second, he must decide if the victim is a murder victim or if he died accidentally.   Then once he has reached the conclusion that the victim was murdered Rutledge must discover where he was murdered.  Rutledge feels that the victim met his death at a different location and the body was later moved.

Rutledge turns up a clue that leads him to suspect that the victim might have a connection to the firm of House of French, French and Traynor.  The firm produces a world famous Madeira wine.  Lewis French, the head of the London office, is missing.  Rutledge is unable to locate French in London and his sister has no idea where her brother might be.

Matthew Traynor, head of the Portugal side of the wine operation, is expected to arrive in England but the French family has not received any word from Traynor and his office only knows he left Portugal to travel to London.

Three women connected to French are interviewed by Rutledge.  French’s sister, his former fiancée and his current fiancée and none can offer a clue as to French’s whereabouts or what may have happened to him.

When Rutledge discovers a link to an incident in the French’s family’s past he feels that the man involved warrants further investigation.  Rutledge’s superintendent is not interested and insists that Rutledge arrest one of the women from French’s past and her father who is employed in the company business.  In spite of his supervisor’s instructions Rutledge proceeds to look into the incident from the past and becomes more and more convinced that he is on the right path to find out the truth about the victim, who he now is sure is Lewis French.

This latest addition to the Rutledge series is a complicated and confusing read and not as enjoyable as the previous novels in this series. I would still recommend the series to a reader who enjoys British mysteries.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, February 2013.

Book Reviews: Hurt Machine by Reed Farrel Coleman, The Confession by Charles Todd, The Border Lords by T. Jefferson Parker, Beneath the Shadows by Sara Foster, and White Lies by Jeremy Bates

Hurt Machine
Reed Farrel Coleman
Tyrus Books, December 2011
ISBN No. 978-1440531996
Trade Paperback

When Carmella Melendez, Moe Prager’s ex-wife and former PI partner, shows up at Moe’s daughter Sarah’s pre-wedding party he finds himself reliving the past while trying to keep the future at bay.  Carmella needs a favor from Moe.  Her sister has been murdered but the police don’t seem concerned about finding her killer.  Unable to resist Carmella’s plea, Moe decides to try to find out who killed Alta.  This decision does not sit well with Pam, a PI from Vermont and a woman that currently holds a special place in Moe’s life.

Carmella took her son Israel, a child close to Moe’s heart, and went to Canada to live leaving Moe behind.  She had also cut her family out of her life with the exception of her grandmother so it was a puzzle to Moe why she was so concerned with her older sister’s murder.  Alta and her partner Mayna Watson were EMTs who had refused to give assistance to a dying man at a downtown restaurant. The man’s family were furious and the public had no sympathy for Alta or her partner as evidenced by the ton of hate mail Mayna turned over to Moe to help his investigation.

Moe moves forward in his investigation taking him to places that have held a lot of meaning to him in the past.  Moe also renews old acquaintances while making his inquiries.  However, his thoughts are always touching on his own future or even if he will have a future.  Moe has recently discovered that he is suffering from stomach cancer. This is a fact that he hasn’t shared with his family so he is carrying the burden alone. Carmella has left town and gone back to Canada without saying good-bye.  Mayna, Alta’s partner, is uncooperative and only wants to be left alone.  It seems no one really cares what actually happened but Moe is determined to find the answer.

It is as if finding Alta’s killer is keeping the cancer at bay in Moe’s mind although his body continually reminds him that the cancer is there and demanding more of his strength daily.  He finds all the answers he is seeking and learns why Alta was murdered.

I am hoping that the fact that Moe has cancer is not an indication that the series will be ending.  The author’s website states that Hurt Machine is “reportedly the next-to-last Moe Prager book.”  If this statement is true, it is a disappointment to me but it looks as though I will have one more book to read in the series.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, January 2012.

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

The Confession
(An Inspector Ian Rutledge Mystery)

Charles Todd
William Morrow, January 2012
ISBN No. 978-0062015662
Hardcover

A man walks into Rutledge’s office at Scotland Yard and identifies himself as Wyatt Russell.  From Russell’s appearance, it is obvious that the man is very ill.  Russell admits to Rutledge that he is suffering from cancer and does not have long to live.  His purpose for visiting Scotland Yard is to confess that he killed a man in 1915 and was never apprehended.  Russell states that confessing is the only way to clear his conscience.  He names his victim as his cousin, Justin Fowler.

Rutledge is curious but confused.  Although Russell admits to the murder, he is not willing to offer many details and eventually states that his confusion is due to the morphine that he is taking.  Without enough evidence to open a murder inquiry Rutledge still cannot just let the matter go.  His curiosity will not allow it.  When a body is found floating in the Thames with a bullet in the back of the head, it turns out that the body is that of Rutledge’s confessor to murder of a few weeks ago. There is a gold locket around the man’s neck containing a picture of a young woman.

Rutledge takes the locket and travels to Essex and the village of Furnham, the home of Wyatt Russell.  Although the community of Furnham does not welcome strangers, Rutledge is able to speak to the minister who informs Rutledge that the picture of the dead man is not that of Wyatt Russell.

It turns out the dead man who passed himself off, as Wyatt Russell is actual Ben Willet, the son of a fisherman, who grew up in the town of Furnham.  Wyatt Russell resided at River’s Edge, an estate near the town.  Wyatt’s mother took in a cousin Justin Fowler to raise after Fowler’s parents died. Cynthia Farraday also came to live at River’s Edge after the death of her parents.  Wyatt’s mother disappeared from River’s Edge and her body was never found. Servants attested to the fact that the gold locket found around the neck of Ben Willet was actually owned by Mrs. Russell and there was a picture inside of Mr. and Mrs. Russell.  Mrs. Russell was known to wear the locket daily.

Rutledge is left with a puzzle of so many pieces it seems impossible to put together but he is determined.  It seems that there are many mysteries surrounding River’s Edge to say nothing of the town of Furnham. The residents have good reason to keep strangers away.  Rutledge has at least three deaths to puzzle out.  Mrs. Russell who disappeared and is believed dead in 1914, Justin Fowler’s reported death in 1915 and now Ben Willet, who confessed to the killing of Justin Fowler when passing himself off as Wyatt Russell.

The story is intriguing and the outcome is not one that I expected.  Hamish McLeod, the ghost that rides shotgun with Rutledge, is present in The Confession but his presence is not as predominant as it has been in past Rutledge novels.  I found this novel to be a great addition to the Ian Rutledge series but can be read as a stand-alone.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, January 2012.

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

The Border Lords
A Charlie Hood Novel

T. Jefferson Parker
New American Library, January 2012
ISBN No. 978-0-451-23556-5
Trade Paperback

Sean Ozburn (Gravas) is undercover for Operation Blowdown.  Sean is one of the best undercover operators but Charlie Hood is taken by surprise when Sean begins acting totally out of character.  Sean operates a “safe house” in Buena Vista, California, a border town.  The house has been wired for sound and video.  The current occupants of the house are four gunmen who are members of the North Baja Cartel, the organization Sean and ATF are hoping to put out of business.  Sean was in the habit of checking in with Operation Blowdown on a daily basis but he hasn’t checked in for a few days and Hood is concerned that Sean’s undercover identity might have been blown.

Charlie Hood, still on loan from the L.A. Sheriff’s Department, was monitoring the live feeds from the “safe house” when the monitors and audio went dark.  After the team requested an unmarked police car to drive by the house, it was decided it would be best to check out the house on their own.  All of the occupants of the “safe house” had been killed.  Hood found a “Love 32” in one of the bedrooms.  The machine gun was the same as ones he had seen being packed for shipment at the Pace Arms factory in Costa Mesa.  He suspected many of the guns had been sent to Mexico and were now being used by the Cartel.  After an inspection of the house, it was found that someone had shut off the video/audio system with a key.    When the team viewed the tape from one of the cameras, they were stunned to see Sean smiling into the camera as he reached up to cover the lens.

So begins the bizarre story of Sean Ozburn and his wife Seliah.  Hood works with Seliah to try to get Sean to come in.  Hood hopes that he can trust Seliah but is unsure that she is being honest with him.  As the story develops, the reader becomes aware that Sean is suffering from a disease that he has been infected with and soon his wife is a victim.  Bradley Jones and his wife Erin play small but important parts in this novel.

The Jaguar is the next Charlie Hood novel and there is a brief introduction to the book at the end of The Border LordsThe Border Lords can be read as a stand-alone.  L. A. Outlaws, The Renegades and Iron River are the first three books in this series.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, May 2012.

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

Beneath the Shadows
Sara Foster
Minotaur Books, June 2012
ISBN No. 978-0312643362
Hardcover

Adam, Grace and baby Millie leave the hustle and bustle of London to settle in a cottage in North Yorkshire that Adam inherited from his grandparents.  The area is beautiful but isolated.  The cottage seems to have its own personality and is filled with the possessions of Adam’s grandparents.  Grace is confident the family can adjust and be happy there.

One day, Adam leaves a note for Grace that he has something to discuss with her when he returns from walking Millie.  Grace is curious, but as the old grandfather clock ticks away the minutes she begins to get nervous.  It seems that Adam has been gone a long time for a little walk.  When Grace hears a noise at the door, she opens it to find her daughter, Millie, in her carriage but Adam is nowhere near.  Grace calls the police and a search is immediately conducted but with no success.  It appears that Adam has disappeared without a trace.

Grace’s parents take her away from the cottage because they feel that it is not a healthy environment for their daughter or their grandchild.  A year goes by with no news of Adam and Grace cannot let go of her memories, or the hope that he will come in the door at any time.  Grace decides to return to Yorkshire with Millie.  She hopes that living in the cottage and sorting through all the many boxes stored in the attic and the basement will help her come to terms with her situation and help her decide what to do with the cottage.

Grace’s neighbor, Meredith Blakeney, invites Grace to visit her.  Annabel, Grace’s sister, comes from London to visit and help Grace sort things out.  She also meets Ben, a man staying in the area to housesit, and he agrees to come to the cottage and do some renovations.

Grace spends the nights alone letting her thoughts wander to the many tales of ghosts and demons that locals tell about the area.  She is also worried about the grandfather clock that seems to have a mind of its own, slowing down and starting up again without warning.

As Grace unpacks boxes she finds letters written by Adam’s deceased mother as well as other items that make Grace feel more and more that Adam did not just leave, but met with a tragic ending.

Beneath the Shadows is a gripping story that keeps the reader interested every step of the way.  Grace has many bad moments and times when she wanted to just run away but in spite of her fears she is able to stay in Yorkshire and eventually solve the mystery of Adam.  The conclusion comes as a surprise but was a brilliant ending.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, May 2012.

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

White Lies
Jeremy Bates
Oceanview Publishing, May 2012
ISBN No. 978-1-60809-043-3
Hardcover

Katrina Burton is traveling to a new job teaching high school English at Cascade High School in Leavenworth, Washington.  The last thing that ever occurred to Katrina was that this new life would start out with a white lie leading to another lie and another lie up to the point where Katrina finds herself lying to protect a murderer.

It all starts innocently enough when Katrina picks up a strange man on her way to Leavenworth.  Katrina was well aware of the dangers of picking up strangers but the weather was bad and there wasn’t any traffic and Katrina felt guilty passing up the man.  Once he got in the car with her and her dog, Bandit, Katrina began to have second thoughts.  When she spotted a sign leading to a turnoff to Lake Wenatchee she told her first lie and said she had a place at the lake and dropped the man off at the turn.  Katrina was relieved to be rid of the hitchhiker named Zach and felt sure she had seen the end of him.

Katrina and Bandit settled in the place that Katrina had rented and Katrina prepared for the first day of school.  It turns out Zach Marshall not only lives in town but teaches in the high school where Katrina is going to begin her new career.  To Katrina’s horror, Zach announces to the other teachers that Katrina owns a cottage at the Lake and suggest she host a party for her new coworkers.  Katrina is beside herself trying to figure out how to get out of the one little lie she told.

Jack Reeves is a man Katrina met at the local hardware store and she confides in Jack the problem about the party and the lake house.  Jack comes up with a solution for Katrina to save face with her fellow workers.  Though Katrina realizes it is not the best solution, she goes along with his suggestion.

Zach is a strange character.  I disliked Zach at times but other times felt sympathy for him.  Jack Reeves also has many sides to his personality.  Katrina soon begins to realize that Jack may not be the person that originally caught her eye.

As the pages turn the reader soon realizes that with Reeves influence Katrina is digging herself a hole with half-truths and new lies.  The characters in White Lies are strong and the suspense builds and builds.  This is a book that leaves the reader wanting more.  I will be looking for future books by this author.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, May 2012.

Book Reviews: Quinn by Iris Johansen, Fever Dream by Dennis Palumbo, The Confession by Charles Todd, The Impossible Dead by Ian Rankin, and Back of Beyond by C.J. Box

Quinn
Iris Johansen
St. Martin’s Press, July 2011
ISBN: 978-0-312-65121-3
Hardcover

This is the second volume in a trilogy [the first was Eve, and the next Bonnie], wrapping up the mystery of the disappearance of Eve Duncan’s seven-year-old daughter who was presumably murdered.  This novel gives a lot of background on how she and Quinn came to meet, fall in love and come together.

Of course, it has to begin with Quinn near death in the hospital from a knife wound, but making a superhuman effort to get out and rejoin the hunt for Bonnie’s killer, aided by CIA agent and friend Catherine Ling.  [None of this is a spoiler, please be assured – it’s all revealed on the book cover.]

I had the feeling that a lot of this book was mere padding, an effort to fill out the three-volume “conclusion,” and bringing to an end one aspect of it:  the quest for the truth about Bonnie’s disappearance. The writing and tension keep the reader turning the pages, but wasn’t completely fulfilling for this reader, having not read any of the previous novels.  Of course, I can’t really comment fully on this observation, nor judge its accuracy.  The book is recommended, but I would suggest that at least the first book of the trilogy be read first.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, November 2011.

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

Fever Dream
Dennis Palumbo
Poisoned Pen Press, November 2011
ISBN: 978-1-59058-957-1
Hardcover

In the beginning, we had Alex Delaware, psychologist and sometime police consultant.  Now we also have Daniel Rinaldi, psychotherapist and part-time police consultant.  There, of course, the similarities end.  Whereas the Kellerman protagonist is more cerebral, the Palumbo creation is more physical, in keeping with his background as a Golden Glover from the mean streets of Pittsburgh.

This novel, the second in which Rinaldi is involved in a murder mystery which endangers his life (multiple times), begins when he is called by a Pittsburgh detective following a bank robbery, to treat the sole surviving hostage (all the others were shot).  From that point, a series of events takes place, fast and furious.  In the midst of everything, there is a gubernatorial campaign in which the D.A. is running as a tough law-and-order candidate, complicating the police efforts and raising other concerns.

The complex plot proceeds apace, with scant clues but much physical action, especially a few murders and lots of firepower. The only criticism I have about an otherwise entertaining novel is Rinaldi’s omnipotence, allowing him to merely espouse solutions to the various mysteries without any preceding facts in the narrative (maybe that’s the way motion picture scripts are written – – the author formerly was a Hollywood screenwriter).  Nevertheless, the book is very enjoyable, and is recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, December 2011.

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

The Confession
Charles Todd
William Morrow, January 2012
ISBN: 978-0-06-201566-2
Hardcover

This latest in the long-running Inspector Ian Rutledge series finds him in his office shortly after the end of World War I listening to a man calling himself Wyatt Russell confess to murdering his cousin years before..  The man tells Rutledge he has stomach cancer and just a very short time to live but wanted to “clear his conscience.”  Little did he know that he would be shot in the head and left in the Thames in just a matter of days.  Now the Inspector has more than one murder to solve, and embarks on a quest that takes him to a little fishing village north of London in Essex where he encounters many more mysteries.

Rutledge learns that the man was not who he claimed to be, and that was but the first thing he had to unravel.  Then to discover the meaning of the only clue he had: a gold woman’s locket with the picture of a young girl, found around the man’s neck.  Without the sanction of an official inquiry, the Inspector proceeds to develop the facts, despite the uncooperative and even hostile reception he receives in the village where additional murders and deaths occur.

A novel written by the mother-and-son team writing under the nom de plume Charles Todd, Confession is up to the high level of its predecessors: the plot is tightly woven, the characters well-drawn and the reader is drawn forward anxiously waiting to find out what comes next.  Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, December 2011.

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

The Impossible Dead
Ian Rankin
Reagan Arthur Books / Little, Brown & Co., November 2011
ISBN: 978-0-316-03977-2
Hardcover

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-op 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’ 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, December 2011.

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

Back of Beyond
C.J. Box
Minotaur Books, August 2011
ISBN: 978-0-312-36574-5
Hardcover

Against the vastness and isolation of Yellowstone Park, C.J. Box has once again created a suspense-murder-thriller novel using the natural environment as a backdrop.  Cody Hoyt, a rogue cop who first appeared in Three Weeks to Say Goodbye, returns once again, as he is called in to investigate the death of a man shot in the head and burned in his half-destroyed mountain cabin, later identified as Cody’s AA sponsor, making the case very personal to the detective.

In the course of his investigation, Cody discovers that the murderer has joined a group on a multi-day wilderness horseback trip in a remote part of the park.  Adding incentive, Cody learns that his son is part of the group on the trip, so has to not only find the murderer but save his son.

The author then takes the reader on a wild ride, never once giving much away in clues as bodies and riderless horses start turning up along the trail as Cody, who now is suspended and AWOL from the Sheriff’s Department, tries to close in on the remaining group.  The descriptions are sweeping, the character development deeply absorbing.

Recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, December 2011.