Friday, November 30, 2007

Pyres by Derek Nikitas

Fifteen-year-old goth girl Luc's life is changed the day she witnesses her father being shot to death at the mall before her eyes. Already on the outs with her mother, the event makes them grow even further apart. The cop investigating the case, Greta, takes a very personal interest in Luc and the murder because of her own past mistakes with her now-grown daughter. Also thrown into the mix is Tanya Yasbeck, nine months pregnant, with a criminal boyfriend and an unpromising future. Soon, the three women's lives intersect against a backdrop of intense, bloody violence. An interesting character study of three troubled protagonists.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

New-Slain Knight by Deborah Grabien

Couple Ringan and Penny are looking forward to spending a few weeks of quality time together. Unfortunately, Ringan is enlisted to watch his thirteen-year-old niece, Becca, a promising violinist. They decide to travel to Cornwall for a vacation, staying with Ringan's old friend, Gowan, who is a musician like Ringan. While there, both Penny and Becca start hearing voices and having visions of what looks to be a murder after hearing a folk song. In order for their lives to go back to normal, they must figure out exactly who is trying to communicate with them about deaths that happened centuries ago. New-Slain Knight is the fifth book in Grabien's Haunted Ballads series and reminded me of the ballad mysteries written by Sharyn McCrumb.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Good Thief's Guide to Amsterdam by Chris Ewan

Charlie Howard is a mystery writer living in Amsterdam who's also a successful thief. An American, Michael Park, contacts him and asks Charlie to steal two small monkey figures. Charlie is hesitant to take the job, but does complete the task. Park is then found nearly beaten to death and the police feel Charlie is the prime suspect. From that point, Charlie tries to find out the real story of the figures--why are they so valuable and why is everyone after them? Interspersed in the story are Charlie's witty conversations with his London literary agent, Victoria. My only problem with the book is that I figured out the secret of the figures way before Charlie--kind of surprising since he lives and writes about crime. I did enjoy the story though.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Die With Me by Elena Forbes

When a teenage girl falls to her death at a church, it first seems like suicide. But then a witness comes forward to say that she saw the girl with a man right before her death. When the toxicology results show that she had drugs in her system, a murder inquiry is launched with DI Mark Tartaglia leading the investigation, along with his female subordinate, DS Sam Donovan. Soon the team finds that someone named “Tom” has been killing depressed young women around London. With few clues to go on, Tartaglia needs to take his investigation “outside the box.” Die With Me is the start of a new mystery series and is similar to the Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James books by Deborah Crombie.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Last Night at the Lobster by Stewart O'Nan

It's the last night of service at a Red Lobster in Connecticut. The restaurant will be closing for good tomorrow. In Last Night at the Lobster, we see the evening through the eyes of Manny DeLeon, the manager for the past ten years. He struggles to hold things together when staff doesn't show up and the winter weather turns particularly nasty. Manny also thinks a lot about Jacquie, a waitress that he had an affair with and his girlfriend, Deena, who's expecting his child. Try as he may, the night may not be as memorable as he had hoped. I really liked this short novel, which finds a good story in an otherwise mundane situation.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Third Degree by Greg Iles

Laurel Shields life hasn't been the same since she and Danny McDavitt ended their affair weeks ago. Laurel finds herself pregnant, not knowing if the father is Danny or her husband, Warren. One morning, Warren finds a letter, evidence of Laurel's affair. He goes completely crazy, barricading himself in their home with her. Warren insists that Laurel must tell him the name of her lover. Laurel resists, not wanting any harm to come to Danny. It's obvious that Warren has gone off the deep end--is he upset only about the affair or also some fraud problems with his medical practice? Soon, it becomes a hostage situation with their two children involved. Will the police be able to bring the episode to a peaceful end? Third Degree was not up to the level of most of Iles' other thrillers. The characters of Laurel and Danny aren't all that likable (the descriptions of their love for each other was corny) and there's not enough going on in the plot to sustain a 400 page book. For a great page turner by Iles, try 24 Hours or Dead Sleep.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Last Rituals: an Icelandic Novel of Secret Symbols, Medieval Witchcraft, and Modern Murder by Yrsa Sigurdardottir

Lawyer Thora Gudmundsdottir is made a financial offer she can't refuse--investigating the death of German university student Harald Guntlieb. Harald's parents believe that the man police have in custody for his murder is innocent and they want Thora to find the real killer. Thora is joined on her search by one of the Guntlieb family employees, Matthew Reich, and she finds that working with him can be exasperating. They find that Harald was part of a group of students who were interested in Iceland's history of witch hunts and the torture that surrounded them. In fact, Harald was the ringleader of the group and had many odd body piercings himself. Is Harald's death connected with the research he was doing or did one of his friends take their group's activities too far? As a divorced mother of two children, Thora makes an interesting protagonist . The book also has touches of humor despite its occasionally gruesome subject matter. A read-alike for this new mystery series would be the Irene Huss books by Helene Tursten set in Sweden.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Redemption by Lee Jackson

Ben Trinity ends up in Redemption, Montana after hitchhiking during a snowstorm. It's a few years in the future and Trinity has been accused of being a terrorist but never tried. He's part of a program that closely monitors suspects, using microchips implanted in their palms. Trinity gets a job at an area diner and befriends a local family, but most of the small town is suspicious of him, especially when they learn about the charges against him and his possible hand in a terrorist act in California. What is the story of Trinity's past--is he innocent or has his life been ruined so badly that he's beyond caring? Redemption is a thriller with an original premise and I found the setting interesting. Trinity has much in common with Lee Child's series character Jack Reacher and the time period of the near future was reminiscent of Kevin Guilfoile's Cast of Shadows.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Spider Trap by Barry Maitland

In London's West Indian community, two teenage girls are shot to death and DS Kathy Kolla and DCI David Brock are assigned the case. Soon after, a boy discovers three skeletons close to the murder scene and it appears that the same gun was used in both crimes. Interestingly enough, the bones turn out to be more than twenty years old. Brock wonders if the deaths are the work of an old enemy, Spider Roach, whom he has been trying to put behind bars for years. With Kathy and Brock working hard to put the pieces together, more and more people become entangled in the web. In Spider Trap, Maitland delves into the politics and culture of Jamaican immigrants, just as he has examined subjects as diverse as the theater in All My Enemies and life inside a shopping mall in Silvermeadow (these are my two favorites). The Brock and Kolla mysteries are similar to Peter Robinson's Inspector Banks series.