Book Reviews: The Crypt Thief by Mark Pryor and Already Dead by Stephen Booth

The Crypt ThiefThe Crypt Thief
A Hugo Marston Novel, #2
Mark Pryor
Seventh Street Books, May 2013
ISBN 978-1-61614-785-3
Trade Paperback

Two tourists were discovered dead in Paris’ famous Pere Lachaise cemetery near American rock star Jim Morrison’s grave. Is there any connection between the victims and the dead cult hero? When the murdered young man is identified as Maxwell Holmes, the son of American senator Harris Holmes, and his companion as a Pakistani woman traveling under an assumed name, officials investigating the deaths suspect a link to a terrorist.

But Hugo Marston, head of security at the American embassy in Paris, wants to investigate other possibilities, but the French police and the senator are focused on terrorism. The senator is sure that the woman was a terrorist trying to gain access to the embassy through a relationship with the senator’s son. The American ambassador J. Bradford Taylor, agrees with Hugo but even though he is pressured by the senator, he buys some time for Hugo to investigate. With the discovery of the theft of body parts from a grave at the cemetery—the leg bones of famous Moulin Rouge dancer Jane Avril—Hugo is convinced that the murder was not the work of a terrorist. Complicating matters is Hugo’s friend Tom Green, supposedly retired from the CIA, who is drinking to excess and spinning out of control. He is tapped to head the terrorism investigation, and his reckless behavior alarms Hugo.

It’s a fast faced mystery, one that draws you in, with lots of conflict between characters. There is that great Paris backdrop and a creepy murderer. This book is the second in the series, after The Bookseller. If you like Michael Connelly and Ian Hamilton, this might be right up your alley.

Reviewed by Susan Belsky, April 2014.

 

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Already DeadAlready Dead
Stephen Booth
Sphere, June 2013
ISBN: 978-0-7515-5171-6
Hardcover

[This book is presently available in hardcover/paperback in/through the UK; hc in Canada now, and in August, 2014 in pb; and in the US as an e-book from Witness Impulse in August, 2014.]

The newest novel in the Ben Cooper and Diane Fry series opens on an ominous note, with the death of an adult male, found lying naked in a shallow stream in “the rural wastelands of the Peak District,” where the roads have been flooded and travel difficult if not impossible, for pedestrians and vehicles alike, in this monsoon-like summer.

The Derbyshire E Division CID, to whom the investigation initially falls, quite literally has no clues, as it appears that the torrential rains have washed away any potential forensic evidence, and no apparent witnesses. DS Dianne Fry is here on short-term assignment, after DS Ben Cooper has been placed on extended leave since the tragic death in an arson fire of his fiancée, scene of crime officer Liz Petty, which ended the last book in the series. Ben is still suffering from panic attacks, nightmares, and the occasional flashbacks to that horrible event, just weeks before their meticulously planned wedding. He is still, not unnaturally, obsessed with the one person still walking free who was a participant in the events of that night.

A secondary plot line deals with another area death which falls to the local police to investigate. Ben’s relationship with Diane is a famously ambivalent one. She finds herself thinking that “his absence was more powerful than his presence.” But despite his official just-another-member-of-the-public position, he manages to provide pivotal clues and insight. Finally, “when it came down to it, there was the question of loyalty.”

The events that fill the book take place over a one-week period. The writing is less action-filled than it is wonderfully descriptive, both of local atmosphere and geography, and including as it does occasional bits of fascinating historical lore. All the better to savor the terrific writing and character development of which the author is a past master. The wholly unexpected shocker of an ending is a perfect cap for this thoroughly enjoyable novel, which is recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, December 2013.

Book Reviews: Start Shooting by Charlie Newton, Driven by James Sallis, Dead and Buried by Stephen Booth, and Die a Stranger by Steve Hamilton

Start ShootingStart Shooting
Charlie Newton
Doubleday, January 2012
ISBN: 978-0-385-53469-7
Hardcover

The one-page prologue of sorts, headed “Chicago,” opens with the words, “The girl was thirteen and Irish, and fashioned out of sunlight so bright she made you believe in angels,” and ends with these: “Nineteen years I’ve been a ghetto cop and thought I’d worked every heartbreaking, horror combination possible.  But I hadn’t.  I wasn’t marginally prepared for how bad six days could get.  And neither was anyone else.”  And then the author details those six days, the p.o.v. alternating between that of Arleen Brennan and Bobby Vargas, the cop. The writer’s style is such that there was a smile on my face at page 1 [following the single page containing that prologue], which describes the Four Corners neighborhood in the South Side of Chicago, and its multi-cultural inhabitants.

The tale begins in the winter of 1982, filling in a lot of the history of Chicago over the last 50+ years, even for those who think they remember all the stories of corruption and race riots.  Chicago is hopeful of hosting the 2016 Olympics and the “salvation” it would surely mean for the city, with the ensuing influx of revenue for a cash-strapped town.  All very entertaining, with just an undercurrent of danger – – until the shooting starts, that is.  At that point, things take a different turn, becoming dark and edgy, with a fair amount of violence.  The craziness gets a bit hard to follow at times, but that didn’t slow the turning of pages at all.

At its heart this is a novel about two pairs of siblings, Arleen and Coleen Brennan, beautiful blond twin sisters, the latter not surviving past the age of 13, when she was raped to death, Arleen escaping the city and not seen again for 29 years, when she appears in the book’s opening pages. Bobby and Reuben Vargas are brothers, Bobby 42 as the story starts, Reuben, a cop and “a street legend in Chicago,” the older brother who was Bobby’s hero for half his life, their parents born in Mexico but the boys having grown up in Four Corners. Ambition is just one thing Arleen and Bobby have in common, for a future, and fame, as an actress and a guitar-playing musician, respectively.  But Arleen is waiting tables, and Bobby is a cop who plays “in the band, weekends around town;” one other thing they have in common is a deep love for their siblings.

Start Shooting is one of the most original novels I’ve read in a while, and though I can’t say I held my breath as it headed towards its denouement, I was white-knuckled from gripping the book so tightly in my hands.  Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, June 2012.

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DrivenDriven
James Sallis
Poisoned Pen Press, April 2012
ISBN: 978-1-4642-0010-6
Hardcover

He is called, simply, Driver, because that’s what he is, that’s what he does and, he feels, that’s what he will always do.  Once one of the best stunt drivers in film, his life has taken different turns, most of them illegal.  But he gave up that life over six years ago, became a successful businessman named Paul West, a man with a ‘normal’ life and a fiancée he dearly loved.  Until one day when his old life catches up to him, and he has to kill the two men who have suddenly appeared and attacked him, but not before his fiancée has been killed. So back he must go, to his old life in Phoenix.  But soon two other men find and attempt to kill him, and he has no choice but to kill again.

As his friend Manny succinctly puts it, “you have to decide what you want, else you just keep spinning around, circling the drain.  You want to get away from the guys?  Or you want to put them down?  Well, there it is, then.  We ponder and weigh and debate.  While in silence, somewhere back in the darkness behind words, our decisions are made.” Now 32 years old, he goes where life, and his attempts to track down whoever is behind the continuing attempts on his life, take him, theorizing that “you moved faster with the current than against.”

The author’s descriptions, in his typical [and typically wonderful] spare prose, conjure up immediate mental images:  Of a tattooist, he says, “His Rasta hair looked like something pulled down from attic storage, first thing you’d want to do is thwack out the dusts.”  Of a young crowd in a mall food court “wagging their iPods and cellphones behind them, fatally connected.”  The book is filled with the author’s – – and his protagonist’s – – philosophizing:  “We all struggle to leave markers behind, signs that we were here, that we passed through . . . urban equivalents of cave paintings.”

The sequel to the excellent Drive, published in 2005, I devoured the book in a single day.  This was a short but memorable visit into the world created by Mr. Sallis, and it is highly recommended.  [The book is also available in a trade paperback edition, ISBN #978-1-4642-0011-3.]

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, August 2012.

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Dead and BuriedDead and Buried
Stephen Booth
Sphere, June 2012
ISBN: 978-1-84744-481-3
Hardcover

[This book is at present only available in/through the UK/Canada; it will be published in the US in April, 2013 by Little, Brown]

As this book opens, firefighters in the Peak District of England are fighting what seems to be a losing battle, trying to contain the flames engulfing this part of Derbyshire, with smoke covering acres and acres of the moors from the catastrophic wildfires that have been springing up, the worst seen in the area in decades, many undoubtedly the result of arson.  But to D.S. Ben Cooper, his more immediate problem are the buried items found by the crew working one of the sites, and which appear to be clothing and other items – including a wallet and credit cards – which had belonged to a young couple who had seemingly disappeared over two years ago, in the middle of a snowstorm.  They had last been seen in a local pub, with no trace found since, and the case, while no longer active, is as cold as it could be.

The Major Crime Unit is called in, and DS Diane Fry, Ben’s old nemesis, is put in charge.  [Diane had been his immediate supervisor before his promotion to detective sergeant.]  Diane, for her part, couldn’t be happier that she had, as she thought, put Derbyshire behind her, her career taking her on an upward path – – she has been with the East Midlands Special Operations Unit for six months, and is less than thrilled to be back again.  In a bit of one-upsmanship, she soon discovers a dead body in the old abandoned pub – – Ben’s office had received a call about a break-in there, but had yet to investigate.

With Ben’s upcoming marriage to Liz Petty, a civilian crime scene examiner, coming up in a few months, the distraction of the wedding plans in which his fiancée is immersed causes him not a little irritation.  Ben and the rest of his CID team at Derbyshire Constabulary E Division have their hands full, with the two investigations proceeding simultaneously, although Diane makes clear that the old case is her jurisdiction.  Behind everything, the raging fires continue, a constant backdrop underlying everything which follows.  The author’s meticulous descriptions of the landscape make for a visceral sense of place.

Mr. Booth has once again created a suspenseful scenario, with many a twist and turn.  This elegantly written novel is the 12th entry in the Cooper and Fry series, and at the end this reader reluctantly closed the book, fervently hoping it won’t be the last.  Recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, October 2012.

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Die a StrangerDie a Stranger
Steve Hamilton
Minotaur Books, July 2012
ISBN: 978-0-312-64021-7
Hardcover

The newest novel in the wonderful Alex McKnight series by Steve Hamilton starts out, as do most of them, in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The residents of the area, referred to as the “land of the Yoopers,” consist heavily of Native Americans, most of them living in the reservations in that part of the country.  As the book opens, Vinnie Red Sky LeBlanc, an Ojibwa Indian who is probably Alex’ best friend, is mourning the death of his mother, a legend on the “rez.”  Alex, a former cop from Detroit, has been living for years in the town of Paradise, where his father had built several cabins for rental to hunters and winter recreationers, lives in one of those cabins, just down the road from Vinnie, who had moved off the rez years before.  Much is made of the clannish nature of the folks on the rez, and how difficult it is for ‘outsiders’ to be trusted.  Vinnie has never been allowed to forget that he is now an outsider, just as he has never forgotten that his father had left thirty years before, the same father apparently still in prison for a vehicular manslaughter/drunk driving incident many years ago, the reason Vinnie himself never drinks.

At the same time, at a little airport three hundred miles away, an event occurs that will effect their lives and those of several others when a small plane holding large quantities of high-grade marijuana lands, precipitating a hijacking which ends with several dead bodies left on the field, only one man making it out alive.  Both Alex and Vinnie become deeply involved in the aftermath:  Vinnie disappears, and Alex is determined to find him and to discover how he what part, if any, he played in this.

The Upper Peninsula is again brought vividly to life by this author who, along with fellow Yooper William Kent Krueger, seems to completely “own” this part of the United States, just below the Canadian border, in their fictional endeavors.  Mr. Hamilton’s description, in part:  “It may be July, and it may feel like summer just got here, but the end is already on its way.  The cold, the snow, the ice, the natural basic state of this place, it is right around the corner. . . It was another goddamned beautiful useless day in Paradise.”  The book veers south to perhaps a lesser-known part of the State apparently called Michigan’s Gold Coast, with towns such as Petoskey and Charlevoix where one soon feels “like you’re in the middle of Times Square,” also beautifully evoked.

This is another terrific entry in the series, beautifully written, as usual, with a somewhat intricate, suspenseful plot and wonderfully drawn characters, and it is highly recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, December 2012.

Book Reviews: Agent X by Noah Boyd, Little Girl Lost by Brian McGilloway, The Devil’s Edge by Stephen Booth, Call Me Princess by Sara Blaedel, and Where All the Dead Lie by J.T. Ellison

Agent X
Noah Boyd
Harper, August 2011
ISBN: 978-0-06-182703-7
Mass Market Paperback

Kate Bannon, the Assistant Director of the FBI who readers, and ex-FBI Agent Steve Vail, first met in this author’s The Bricklayer, returns, in fact, in the first sentence on the first page of this, the second in the series.  And a most welcome return it is, of those protags and the series itself. I am delighted to report that all the taut writing, suspense and wonderful characters of the initial book in the series are abundantly present in Agent X as well.

Vail, a maverick who can’t/won’t confirm to rules, was fired by the FBI five years previously.  He has since then been working at least nominally as a bricklayer [thus the title of the first book] and had met Kate in LA when they worked together on a case which had a successful conclusion, mostly due to his efforts.  [He was an ‘independent contractor’ of sorts in that instance for the FBI.]  They had dated for a while, until Kate broke it off.  Beyond the delightful banter, the two make for a terrific team as the FBI persuades Vail to head up their investigation into finding a number of agents to whom vital US secrets are just a commodity to be bartered.  As if that weren’t enough, Steve is asked by an agent who had been Vail’s partner several years back to assist with a case involving the disappearance of a female intelligence analyst.  As the tale unfolds, one thing becomes clear:  Very little is as it seems.

The Vail/Bannon relationship is an ambivalent one.  As is the Vail/FBI deal.  Bannon tells Vail:  “You have advanced degrees.  The director has offered you complete autonomy if you’ll come back to the Bureau, but instead you choose physical labor just so you won’t have to take orders. . . Not everyone who takes orders for a living is a mortal enemy of Steven Vail.”  The cleverly constructed sleuthing [which was a challenge at times for this reader, I must admit], and the occasional philosophical ruminations, make for a fascinating read.

Recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, July 2011.

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Little Girl Lost
Brian McGilloway
Macmillan, May 2011
ISBN: 978-0-230-75336-5
Trade Paperback

[This title is presently only available in/through the UK,  not yet available in the US or Canada]

D.S. Lucy Black, of the Police Service of Northern Ireland and the daughter of police officers, in the midst of a search for a young girl, Kate McLaughlin, whose father is a prominent businessman, stumbles [almost literally] upon another young girl, wandering in what is termed an ‘ancient woodland,’ suffering severe hypothermia among other things due to her prolonged exposure to the elements in the brutal winter cold and snow.   The latter child is unidentified, and remains so despite pleas to the public and circulation through print media and televised press conferences of her information and photograph.  The only one to achieve any response from the girl, and that very limited, is Lucy.

Chief Superintendent Travers, of the CID, transfers Lucy, despite her desire for a post in the CID, to the Public Protection Unit “for the foreseeable future,” and assigns her to the case of the unidentified child.  Her position is made more complex than it otherwise might be by virtue of the fact that her mother is the Assistant Chief Constable.  Only in the division a month, Lucy has taken pains to keep that information hidden, made easier by the fact that her mother reverted to her own name when her parents divorced 14 years earlier.  The two investigations proceed side by side, the lines at times crossing from one to the other.  As the tale goes one, the heart-tugging stories of more than one other Little Girls Lost arise.

Lucy’s personal life intrudes on her work:  She had requested her present assignment because her father, an ex-cop for over twenty years, is now increasingly suffering from dementia, if not actually Alzheimer’s, and she has moved back to Derry after many years away.  Her relationship with both her parents is strained, to say the least, and becomes more so as the novel proceeds.  Derry is cited as “the birthplace of The Troubles,” and however long ago that era was, perhaps inevitably its presence is still very much a force in the lives of those who lived through it.  A fascinating novel, and recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, July 2011.

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The Devil’s Edge
Stephen Booth
Sphere, April 2011
ISBN: 978-1-84744-479-0
Hardcover

[This book is presently available only in/through the UK/CA, not yet available in the US]

Devil’s Edge is a fairly insular world, defined, geographically at least, by the cliff edges which surround it.  This book is, in a similar way, equally circumscribed.  As the reader is told on the opening page, “It was one of the drawbacks of living in the countryside.  Too much of the outside world intruding.  Too many things it was impossible to keep out.”  In this novel, the outside world, and the aspects of it one would most like to keep out, intrudes in the worst way.  On the eastern fringe of the Peak District, in the village of Riddings, in rural Derbyshire, there has been a rash of break-ins.  The burglars have been dubbed The Savages by the press. The newest incidents escalate the anxiety when they suddenly turn deadly.  The author speaks of the residents having sought sanctuary in the rural haven, noting, however, that “everyone had monsters in their lives.”  Suspicion turns from looking for an outside group of burglars to someone from within the community, targeting the victims, for reasons far more personal. Recently promoted D.S. Ben Cooper is assigned the investigation.  He, particularly, believes it is not the work of The Savages, being much more meticulously planned and leaving no trace of the culprit[s].

D.S. Diane Fry, formerly with the West Midlands Police “in the days before she transferred to yokel land,” is brought back into the squad to take over the investigation after an almost unimaginable turn of events changes Ben Cooper’s life forever.  Despite the past ambivalence of their relationship, where they were both vying for the same promotion, their usually well-concealed respect for each other is here on display.

The author’s descriptions bring the land to palpable life, e.g., “the distant rocky outcrops seemed to change shape.  They slid slowly sideways, merged and divided, their outlines shifting from smooth to jagged to a distinctive silhouette.  It was all the effect of altering angle and perspective.  With each step, a transformation took place inthe landscape, a gradual reveal like the slow drawing aside of a curtain.  At a point halfway across the flats, a split rock he hadn’t noticed before came into view.  As it emerged from behind a larger boulder, its two halves slowly parted and turned, like the hands of a clock creeping past noon.”  Simply gorgeous.  [The landscape, and the writing, that is.]

Recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, October 2011.

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Call Me Princess
Sara Blaedel
Pegasus Crime, August 2011
ISBN: 978-1-60598-251-9
Hardcover

Though Sara Blaedel is the author of several books, and her novels are apparently consistently on the bestseller lists in her native Denmark and elsewhere, this book represents her American debut.  And an auspicious one it is.

Assistant Detective Louise Rick, of the Copenhagen Police Department, is assigned the case of a 32-year-old woman who was raped and brutally attacked.  When the body of another young woman is found, having been similarly brutalized but hadn’t escaped with her life, the police believe they have a serial criminal on the loose.  Other women with similar stories of brutal rapes over the past couple of years are soon linked to the same man.  The only common thread is that the women all apparently met their attackers online.

Louise has been with the homicide division for the past four years. Her best friend, Camilla Lind, is a reporter who has the Copenhagen crime beat at a local newspaper, and that turns out to be both a blessing and a curse, because the help of the newspaper in getting the description of the man the police are hunting out to the public can be a good thing, but too close an involvement with the latest victim by a reporter not so much, and Louise finds it hard to keep a professional distance.

Louise ultimately needs to familiarize herself with the world of online dating.  Her six-year-long relationship with the man she’s been living with has become rocky, and she is ambivalent about the research she needs to do.  The suspense mounts as she tries to identify the rapist.  The author explores the devastating effects on his victims, and I found it hard to keep reading at times, but harder to put the book down.  The author’s next book, Only One Life, is due out in July of 2012 from Pegasus, and I for one can’t wait.

Recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, December 2011.

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Where All the Dead Lie
J.T. Ellison
MIRA Books, October 2011
ISBN: 978-0-7783-1268-0
Trade Paperback

As this newest entry in the Taylor Jackson series opens, although the serial killer whose death ended the last book, So Close the Hand of Death, is no longer around to continue his terror campaign, his legacy is very much alive:  Both Nashville homicide lieutenant Taylor Jackson and her closest friend, medical examiner Dr. Samantha Owens Loughley [“Sam”] are still traumatized by the events which led to his death at Taylor’s hand, one month earlier.  [The two women’s jobs are described by the author thusly:  “Taylor protected the living inhabitants of Nashville; Sam uncovered the secrets of its dead.”] Taylor suffers from a combination of PTSD and guilt, in addition to the aftermath of the gunshot to the head which she sustained, following which she was put in a medically induced coma and then didn’t waken for another week; Sam had been horribly tormented and brutalized.

The series should probably be read in order, as there are a lot of backstory references and characters: The mysterious man known as Atlantic, the whole history of The Pretender [the aforementioned serial killer], etc.  This book has an unexpected change of venue, from Taylor’s native city to the UK, when her erstwhile suitor, James “Memphis” Highsmythe, the Viscount Dulsie, invites her to spend the holidays in his castle [yes, ‘castle!’], to help her recover from her emotional, physical and psychic wounds.  Since she is experiencing some unexpected ambivalence in her relationship with Dr. John Baldwin, to whom she is now engaged – –  some friction has developed over an issue having to do with his son, another part of that backstory – – she decides to accept his invitation.

Once Taylor arrives in Edinburgh, she finds that Memphis, a Detective Inspector with the Metropolitan Police, is in the midst of investigating a series of disappearances:  three teenage girls have gone missing in London, and he is in charge of the case.  Much of the rest of the tale deals with that investigation, as well as Taylor’s attempts at recovery and the complications caused by her relationship with Memphis, a recently widowed man equally mired in grief over his wife’s somewhat mysterious death as with his passion for Taylor.

Another well-written and engrossing entry in a terrific series, this one is also recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, February 2012.

Book Reviews: Agent X by Noah Boyd, Little Girl Lost by Brian McGilloway, The Devil's Edge by Stephen Booth, Call Me Princess by Sara Blaedel, and Where All the Dead Lie by J.T. Ellison

Agent X
Noah Boyd
Harper, August 2011
ISBN: 978-0-06-182703-7
Mass Market Paperback

Kate Bannon, the Assistant Director of the FBI who readers, and ex-FBI Agent Steve Vail, first met in this author’s The Bricklayer, returns, in fact, in the first sentence on the first page of this, the second in the series.  And a most welcome return it is, of those protags and the series itself. I am delighted to report that all the taut writing, suspense and wonderful characters of the initial book in the series are abundantly present in Agent X as well.

Vail, a maverick who can’t/won’t confirm to rules, was fired by the FBI five years previously.  He has since then been working at least nominally as a bricklayer [thus the title of the first book] and had met Kate in LA when they worked together on a case which had a successful conclusion, mostly due to his efforts.  [He was an ‘independent contractor’ of sorts in that instance for the FBI.]  They had dated for a while, until Kate broke it off.  Beyond the delightful banter, the two make for a terrific team as the FBI persuades Vail to head up their investigation into finding a number of agents to whom vital US secrets are just a commodity to be bartered.  As if that weren’t enough, Steve is asked by an agent who had been Vail’s partner several years back to assist with a case involving the disappearance of a female intelligence analyst.  As the tale unfolds, one thing becomes clear:  Very little is as it seems.

The Vail/Bannon relationship is an ambivalent one.  As is the Vail/FBI deal.  Bannon tells Vail:  “You have advanced degrees.  The director has offered you complete autonomy if you’ll come back to the Bureau, but instead you choose physical labor just so you won’t have to take orders. . . Not everyone who takes orders for a living is a mortal enemy of Steven Vail.”  The cleverly constructed sleuthing [which was a challenge at times for this reader, I must admit], and the occasional philosophical ruminations, make for a fascinating read.

Recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, July 2011.

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

Little Girl Lost
Brian McGilloway
Macmillan, May 2011
ISBN: 978-0-230-75336-5
Trade Paperback

[This title is presently only available in/through the UK,  not yet available in the US or Canada]

D.S. Lucy Black, of the Police Service of Northern Ireland and the daughter of police officers, in the midst of a search for a young girl, Kate McLaughlin, whose father is a prominent businessman, stumbles [almost literally] upon another young girl, wandering in what is termed an ‘ancient woodland,’ suffering severe hypothermia among other things due to her prolonged exposure to the elements in the brutal winter cold and snow.   The latter child is unidentified, and remains so despite pleas to the public and circulation through print media and televised press conferences of her information and photograph.  The only one to achieve any response from the girl, and that very limited, is Lucy.

Chief Superintendent Travers, of the CID, transfers Lucy, despite her desire for a post in the CID, to the Public Protection Unit “for the foreseeable future,” and assigns her to the case of the unidentified child.  Her position is made more complex than it otherwise might be by virtue of the fact that her mother is the Assistant Chief Constable.  Only in the division a month, Lucy has taken pains to keep that information hidden, made easier by the fact that her mother reverted to her own name when her parents divorced 14 years earlier.  The two investigations proceed side by side, the lines at times crossing from one to the other.  As the tale goes one, the heart-tugging stories of more than one other Little Girls Lost arise.

Lucy’s personal life intrudes on her work:  She had requested her present assignment because her father, an ex-cop for over twenty years, is now increasingly suffering from dementia, if not actually Alzheimer’s, and she has moved back to Derry after many years away.  Her relationship with both her parents is strained, to say the least, and becomes more so as the novel proceeds.  Derry is cited as “the birthplace of The Troubles,” and however long ago that era was, perhaps inevitably its presence is still very much a force in the lives of those who lived through it.  A fascinating novel, and recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, July 2011.

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

The Devil’s Edge
Stephen Booth
Sphere, April 2011
ISBN: 978-1-84744-479-0
Hardcover

[This book is presently available only in/through the UK/CA, not yet available in the US]

Devil’s Edge is a fairly insular world, defined, geographically at least, by the cliff edges which surround it.  This book is, in a similar way, equally circumscribed.  As the reader is told on the opening page, “It was one of the drawbacks of living in the countryside.  Too much of the outside world intruding.  Too many things it was impossible to keep out.”  In this novel, the outside world, and the aspects of it one would most like to keep out, intrudes in the worst way.  On the eastern fringe of the Peak District, in the village of Riddings, in rural Derbyshire, there has been a rash of break-ins.  The burglars have been dubbed The Savages by the press. The newest incidents escalate the anxiety when they suddenly turn deadly.  The author speaks of the residents having sought sanctuary in the rural haven, noting, however, that “everyone had monsters in their lives.”  Suspicion turns from looking for an outside group of burglars to someone from within the community, targeting the victims, for reasons far more personal. Recently promoted D.S. Ben Cooper is assigned the investigation.  He, particularly, believes it is not the work of The Savages, being much more meticulously planned and leaving no trace of the culprit[s].

D.S. Diane Fry, formerly with the West Midlands Police “in the days before she transferred to yokel land,” is brought back into the squad to take over the investigation after an almost unimaginable turn of events changes Ben Cooper’s life forever.  Despite the past ambivalence of their relationship, where they were both vying for the same promotion, their usually well-concealed respect for each other is here on display.

The author’s descriptions bring the land to palpable life, e.g., “the distant rocky outcrops seemed to change shape.  They slid slowly sideways, merged and divided, their outlines shifting from smooth to jagged to a distinctive silhouette.  It was all the effect of altering angle and perspective.  With each step, a transformation took place inthe landscape, a gradual reveal like the slow drawing aside of a curtain.  At a point halfway across the flats, a split rock he hadn’t noticed before came into view.  As it emerged from behind a larger boulder, its two halves slowly parted and turned, like the hands of a clock creeping past noon.”  Simply gorgeous.  [The landscape, and the writing, that is.]

Recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, October 2011.

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

Call Me Princess
Sara Blaedel
Pegasus Crime, August 2011
ISBN: 978-1-60598-251-9
Hardcover

Though Sara Blaedel is the author of several books, and her novels are apparently consistently on the bestseller lists in her native Denmark and elsewhere, this book represents her American debut.  And an auspicious one it is.

Assistant Detective Louise Rick, of the Copenhagen Police Department, is assigned the case of a 32-year-old woman who was raped and brutally attacked.  When the body of another young woman is found, having been similarly brutalized but hadn’t escaped with her life, the police believe they have a serial criminal on the loose.  Other women with similar stories of brutal rapes over the past couple of years are soon linked to the same man.  The only common thread is that the women all apparently met their attackers online.

Louise has been with the homicide division for the past four years. Her best friend, Camilla Lind, is a reporter who has the Copenhagen crime beat at a local newspaper, and that turns out to be both a blessing and a curse, because the help of the newspaper in getting the description of the man the police are hunting out to the public can be a good thing, but too close an involvement with the latest victim by a reporter not so much, and Louise finds it hard to keep a professional distance.

Louise ultimately needs to familiarize herself with the world of online dating.  Her six-year-long relationship with the man she’s been living with has become rocky, and she is ambivalent about the research she needs to do.  The suspense mounts as she tries to identify the rapist.  The author explores the devastating effects on his victims, and I found it hard to keep reading at times, but harder to put the book down.  The author’s next book, Only One Life, is due out in July of 2012 from Pegasus, and I for one can’t wait.

Recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, December 2011.

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Where All the Dead Lie
J.T. Ellison
MIRA Books, October 2011
ISBN: 978-0-7783-1268-0
Trade Paperback

As this newest entry in the Taylor Jackson series opens, although the serial killer whose death ended the last book, So Close the Hand of Death, is no longer around to continue his terror campaign, his legacy is very much alive:  Both Nashville homicide lieutenant Taylor Jackson and her closest friend, medical examiner Dr. Samantha Owens Loughley [“Sam”] are still traumatized by the events which led to his death at Taylor’s hand, one month earlier.  [The two women’s jobs are described by the author thusly:  “Taylor protected the living inhabitants of Nashville; Sam uncovered the secrets of its dead.”] Taylor suffers from a combination of PTSD and guilt, in addition to the aftermath of the gunshot to the head which she sustained, following which she was put in a medically induced coma and then didn’t waken for another week; Sam had been horribly tormented and brutalized.

The series should probably be read in order, as there are a lot of backstory references and characters: The mysterious man known as Atlantic, the whole history of The Pretender [the aforementioned serial killer], etc.  This book has an unexpected change of venue, from Taylor’s native city to the UK, when her erstwhile suitor, James “Memphis” Highsmythe, the Viscount Dulsie, invites her to spend the holidays in his castle [yes, ‘castle!’], to help her recover from her emotional, physical and psychic wounds.  Since she is experiencing some unexpected ambivalence in her relationship with Dr. John Baldwin, to whom she is now engaged – –  some friction has developed over an issue having to do with his son, another part of that backstory – – she decides to accept his invitation.

Once Taylor arrives in Edinburgh, she finds that Memphis, a Detective Inspector with the Metropolitan Police, is in the midst of investigating a series of disappearances:  three teenage girls have gone missing in London, and he is in charge of the case.  Much of the rest of the tale deals with that investigation, as well as Taylor’s attempts at recovery and the complications caused by her relationship with Memphis, a recently widowed man equally mired in grief over his wife’s somewhat mysterious death as with his passion for Taylor.

Another well-written and engrossing entry in a terrific series, this one is also recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, February 2012.