Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Department of Lost and Found by Allison Winn Scotch

Natalie Miller is riding high--living in New York City as a top aide to a senator. She's then diagnosed with breast cancer and her boyfriend, Ned, picks this as the time to announce he's breaking up with her. Now on her own, facing chemotherapy, she spends her days watching "The Price is Right" and trying to help with the senator's re-election campaign, even though she's supposed to be focusing on getting better. With a lot of time of her hands, she decides to track down her former boyfriends and try to find out why their relationships failed. She specifically thinks a lot about Jake, who's now the lead singer for a successful rock band. Natalie also finds herself spending time with her gorgeous gynecologist, Zach, who seems to be as attracted to her as she is to him. But is it really the best idea to start a relationship when you're battling for your life? The Department of Lost and Found is a sometimes funny, sometimes touching look at how a major event can change your outlook on the type of life you want to live.

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Lost Witness by Robert Ellis

Detective Lena Gamble is on the outs with LAPD brass following her last big case (detailed in Ellis' last book City of Fire). After eight months of working only on "Officer Involved Shooting" cases, which to Lena are time consuming and boring, she gets a call to investigate a murder in Hollywood. The death of the young woman is particularly brutal and Lena is to report her progress on the case to LAPD Chief Logan and his subordinate, Lt. Klinger. This directive and their abrasive manner towards her leads Lena to wonder what their angle is--are they setting her up for a fall since they can't fire her? Luckily, Lena has a few friends on the force who are willing to help her on a case that has more questions every day. Will Lena be able to hold on to her job, sanity and life while trying to catch a killer? The Lost Witness is another unputdownable thriller which is reminiscent of Michael Connelly and Robert Crais. I hope Ellis continues to write the Lena Gamble series for a long time. It will be published in February.

Monday, December 15, 2008

All the Colors of Darkness by Peter Robinson

DI Annie Cabbot is called to the scene of a hanging in Hindswell Woods in Yorkshire. The man, Mark Hardcastle, appears to have committed suicide. The investigation becomes a bit more complex when Hardcastle's lover, Laurence Silbert, is found dead in his home. To the police, it seems to be a murder-suicide, although Annie and DCI Alan Banks are not as ready to close the case as their superiors are. They find out that Silbert is retired from M16. Are police higher-ups being pressured to move on? Is it possible that someone gave Hardcastle a "gentle push" to be a jealous lover, which led to Silbert's death? Alan and Annie work secretly to uncover the truth--at times putting their careers and lives on the line. Another solid police procedural in this long-running series. All the Colors of Darkness will be published in February.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Echoes from the Dead by Johan Theorin

Julia Davidsson has been living her life in a fog ever since her young son disappeared twenty years ago, while they were staying with her parents on the Swedish isle of Oland. When Julia's estranged father, Gerlof, calls and tells her that he's received one of Jens' sandals and that he needs to see her, she agrees to go. Gerlof is, at times, cagey about what he thinks he knows about Jens' disappearance (and after all this time, death), but he is slowly tenacious in finding out what happened to him. Julia, staying on the family's land in Stenvik, is doing her own investigating. Gerlof's and Julia's stories are interpersed with that of a local man, Nils Kant, who supposedly died years before Jens disappeared. Nils grew up in the area and was a violently impulsive man. How is his story connected with that of the Davidsson family? Echoes from the Dead is a leisurely-paced mystery with rich characters and a great sense of place. People who like meatier mysteries, especially Scandavian and British ones, will enjoy this.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Leisure Seeker by Michael Zadoorian

Retiree Ella Robina decides to take a road trip with her husband, John, in their Winnebago, from their home outside Detroit to Disneyland. Going along as much of Route 66 as is left, it will probably be their last vacation together, since Ella has stopped her cancer treatment and John is suffering from advanced Alzheimer's. While on their journey, Ella recounts memories of their life together and guides the reader through the Route 66 tourist traps along the way. With John as the driver and companion, the trip is, at times, scary and stressful for Ella, who has to make sure he doesn't wander off. Other times, we see the love and tenderness between the couple. While my description might make the book seem to be a downer, it's not. The Leisure Seeker is a heartfelt, at times humorous, look at what it's like to get old with the one you love. If you're looking for another road novel featuring older characters, try The Widows' Adventures by Charles Dickinson. Also, I'm glad to see that Zadoorian is still writing. I loved his first novel, Second Hand. The Leisure Seeker will be published next month.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Triptych by Karin Slaughter

Michael Ormewood is the lead detective in the case of a prostitute's murder. He is none too thrilled when Will Trent of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation's Special Criminal Investigation Team is asked to advise. Will points out to Michael several cases recently that involve a similar m.o. to this one--women with their tongues bitten off. They work together very uneasily and there's even more tension when Will realizes that his sometimes girlfriend/friend from childhood, cop Angie Polaski previously slept with Michael. Alternating with the story of Michael and Will is the tale of ex-con John Shelley. John has been recently released from prison after serving twenty years for killing a friend in high school. John discovers that someone has been using his identity and he wonders why. Who is trying to frame John and send him back to prison and how is his predicament connected to the case that Michael and Will are working on? Triptych is the first book featuring Will Trent. I blogged about the second book, Fractured in August. Triptych is an even better story than Fractured.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Obituary Writer by Porter Shreve

Gordie Hatch has always dreamed of being a great journalist like his late father. Throughout his childhood, his mother regaled him with stories about his father's reporting on Kennedy's assassination. Gordie, 22, works as an obituary writer for the St. Louis Independent and yearns to move up in the newsroom. One day he takes a call from a woman named Alicia Whiting whose husband, Arthur, has died. Gordie feels she's sick with grief when Alicia insists her husband deserves a significant obit. He also is a bit intrigued by Alicia, especially when he meets her. The Obituary Writer is a story of Gordie's coming of age and the uncovering of many truths. I blogged about Shreve's latest book, When the White House Was Ours in September. I loved that book. This novel, however, is lacking the quirkiness and character development that make Shreve's books such enjoyable reads.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Not in the Flesh by Ruth Rendell

Jim Belbury is out truffle hunting when his dog digs up some human remains. Chief Inspector Wexford and DS Hannah Goldsmith are called to the scene and discover that the land belongs to John Grimble, who had planned to build four houses on the property that was left to him by his stepfather. Grimble has let the land become overgrown since the planning authority denied him the right to build more than one house on the land almost twelve years ago. The pathologist is able to say that the bones are about that old. Wexford and his team go over all the missing persons lists to see if they can find a match. Then policeman Mike Burden find a decaying body in the abandoned house on Grimble's property. The authorities now have another mystery on their hands. Do any of the residents who live on land adjoining the Grimble estate have any ideas how two people died so close to them? Regular fans of Rendell's Wexford mysteries will enjoy this latest in the series.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Among the Mad by Jacqueline Winspear

Private detective Maisie Dobbs and her assistant Billy Beale are on their way home on Christmas Eve 1931 when they see a man commit suicide. The incident leaves her shaken and brings back memories of her service to England as a nurse during World War I. She is surprised to learn a few days later that her name is mentioned in a threat against the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary. After being cleared of any wrongdoing, Maisie is asked to assist the Special Branch of Scotland Yard before any violence occurs. Soon, it's obvious to Maisie that the letter writer is deranged and knowledgeable about deadly poisons. Maisie uses the connections that she's established over the years and diverges with the police in her opinion about the type of person responsible. Will Maisie be able to stand up for her beliefs and stop a killer? Among the Mad will be published in February.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Vows of Silence by Susan Hill

A madman is killing young women around the town of Lafferton. He is mainly targeting recently married or engaged females. DCS Simon Serrailler and his team always seem to be one step behind the murderer, since he isn't leaving behind many clues. On a personal front, Serrailler is as isolated from everyone as ever, except his triplet sister Cat Deerbon. Cat, a doctor who is married with three children, has recently returned from a sabbatical in Australia. When a crisis strikes her family, she needs Simon more than ever. In addition, chaplain Jane Fitzroy is thinking about Simon and what might have been between them (Jane was introduced in Hill's last Serrailler mystery, The Risk of Darkness). Will Jane and Simon come out of their individual seclusions? I did enjoy this fourth book in the series (even though the storyline of Cat's crisis was excessive). However, I don't think it's quite up to the same level as the other books in the series, which were outstanding. The Vows of Silence hasn't been published yet in the U.S.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Kissing Games of the World by Sandi Kahn Shelton

Single mom and artist Jamie McClintock and her son, Arley, share a home with Harris Goddard and his grandson, Christopher. Harris has been raising Christopher since he was an infant, after his mother died in a car accident and Harris' son, Nate, left. When Harris dies of a heart attack, Nate comes back to the family home to claim his son. Arley and Christopher are kindergartners and best friends who do everything together. Jamie fears that Nate's return will be the end of the boys' friendship and also of the closeness that she feels herself for motherless Christopher. Nate is immediately suspicious of Jamie since she's around his age and wonders if Jamie and his father were ever involved. It also doesn't help that Harris and Nate never saw eye to eye and that Harris walked out on Nate and his mother when he himself was a child. When Nate announces his plans to sell his father's house and have Christopher join him on the road with his job, Jamie feels her heart break. Jamie also worries about not having anywhere to live and Nate's clueless parenting skills. Both Jamie and Nate are attracted to each other yet get on each other's nerves. Will they go their separate ways or learn they need each other?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Replacement Child by Christine Barber

Scanner Lady is a very familiar caller to the newsroom of the Capital Tribune in Santa Fe. One night she calls and gets reporter Lucy Newroe on the phone. Scanner Lady says she's heard two Santa Fe police officers talking about a dead body. The next morning, Lucy goes to the police department to investigate and mentions Scanner Lady's call. When a woman named Patsy Burke is murdered and has a scanner in her home, Lucy feels incredibly guilty and thinks she may have caused Patsy's death. Cop Gil Montoya, on the other hand, is unofficially looking into the death of Melissa Baca. Gil's boss has asked him to look into the case (as a favor to the family), even though the state police are the official investigators. In talking with Gil, Lucy wonders if Patsy overheard talk of Melissa's death. Gil and Lucy share information, both trying to uncover the truth about the death closest to them. In The Replacement Child, Barber fully describes the history and setting of northern New Mexico, most notably Santa Fe. This mystery was the winner of the Tony Hillerman Prize.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Night Stalker by James Swain

Jack Carpenter is a specialist in finding missing children, due to his time as the head of Broward County Missing Persons Unit. Now going solo, he's hired by serial killer Abb Grimes to find his grandson, Sampson, who has been kidnapped from his home. Abb is to be executed in four days and wants Sampson back by then. Sampson's disappearance seems to be related to Abb's talking to the FBI about his crimes, since the ransom note specifically mentioned that Abb's relationship with the FBI will lead to Sampson's death. The police and the FBI are convinced that Sampson's father, Jed (and Abb's son) is the culprit--a case of the son following in his dad's footsteps. Carpenter is sure that someone is trying to frame Jed, but he is not sure why. On his own, Jack is racing against time and the authorities to bring Sampson home safely. Will he be able to find him and clear Jed's name? The Night Stalker is the second book in the Jack Carpenter series and is just as unputdownable as the first (Midnight Rambler). For readers looking for a great new thriller writer. The Jack Carpenter character is very similar to Lee Child's Jack Reacher.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Brutal Heart by Gail Bowen

Political commentator Joanne Kilbourn is enjoying married life with her new husband, lawyer Zack Shreve, when the murder of prostitute Cristal Avilia threatens to cause a rift between them. Zack patronized Cristal well before his relationship with Joanne started, yet saw her the day she died because she tried to blackmail one of his friends. When an explicit dvd is sent to her home, Joanne feels she must find out more about Cristal and her death in order to keep her family safe. Meanwhile, for a program on women and politics, Joanne is shadowing politician Ginny Monaghan as she tries to get re-elected, despite being involved in a custody battle for her twin teenage daughters. Again, Gail Bowen has written a mystery featuring all aspects of a woman's life. I especially like the setting of Regina, Saskatchewan and Bowen's descriptions of Joanne's everyday activities.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

A Song for You by Betsy Thornton

Rachel Macabee's life has been unsettled since her mother, Annie, was murdered when Rachel was a child. Now grown and married, Rachel suffers from panic attacks and nightmares about her youth. When a body is unearthed in Dudley, Arizona, where she grew up, it may give her the chance to finally put things right. The body turns out to be her mother's best friend, Wynn Wykoff--and it looks as though he was killed at about the same time her mother died--seventeen years ago. Rachel and her husband, Scott, decide to hire detective Brian Flynn to try and find out who killed Wynn and Annie. At the time, Annie's boyfriend Kurt Dickens was tried and acquitted for her murder. Rachel believes Kurt was innocent and would hate for him to be arrested again for Wynn's death. Chloe Newcombe joins Flynn in his investigation, having just left her job as a victim's advocate for the county's Victim Witness Program. Chloe and Flynn have their work cut out for them--finding the files and witnesses from a case almost twenty years old. Hopefully they can find justice and peace for Rachel..... A Song for You is the fifth book in the Chloe Newcombe mystery series. I like this series because of the great sense of place for the artsy town of Dudley and the liberal, free-spiritedness of Chloe's character.

Friday, October 17, 2008

A Spoonful of Poison by M.C. Beaton

Agatha Raisin is asked by the vicar of Comfrey Magna to help organize the village fete, since she has a background in public relations. The event looks to be on track for great success when Agatha books a well-known singer for the fest. The day turns tragic, however, when someone poisons the jams that are part of the jam tasting contest and two residents die. Agatha's detective agency is then hired to find out who was responsible. Agatha, along with her young associate Toni, delves into the lives of the residents of Comfrey Magna--especially handsome widower George Selby (who catches Agatha's eye) and the ladies who made the various jams. Will Agatha and her team again find the murderer before the police do? A Spoonful of Poison is a lighthearted look into English village life through the eyes of the sometimes abrasive yet lovable Agatha Raisin.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Dead Man's Footsteps by Peter James

Broke Englishman Ronnie Wilson is in New York City on September 11th to try and work a deal with his old friend who works at the World Trade Center. Six years later, Abby Dawson is living under an assumed name in Brighton and fears someone is out to get her. When Detective Superintendent Roy Grace's team is called to investigate a skeleton in a tunnel, the lives of these characters intersect. Grace and his colleagues have to wade through lies and fake identities and travel to two continents in order to unmask the killer. Dead Man's Footsteps is another worthy addition to the Roy Grace series. It's such a pity that no American publisher has picked up these books after Carroll and Graf (now defunct) published the first two (this is the fourth). A great read-alike for Peter Robinson.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Hold My Hand by Serena Mackesy

Bridget knows she must leave London to give both herself and her young daughter, Yasmin, a better life. Her ex-husband, Kieran, is abusive and won't leave them alone. Bridget prays she gets the job as housekeeper at Rospetroc, an old manor house in Cornwall that the owner rents out to vacationers. Bridget gets the job and figures it will be a fresh start for them, being on their own in a great big house. What she doesn't plan on is the presence of Lily, a girl who came to Rospetroc from Portsmouth as a refugee during World War II. Interspersed with Bridget's story is Lily's nightmarish tale of living with one Mrs. Blackmore, who detests her. Bridget's concerns at first are for settling in and the hope that Kieran never finds them. But when Yasmin begins to talk about a friend named Lily that no one is familar with, she becomes worried. Soon, the past and the present collide violently. Serena Mackesy has created a compulsively readable novel about a woman starting over amidst the tumult that surrounds her.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Hurting Distance by Sophie Hannah

When he fails to show up for their weekly hotel tryst, Naomi Jenkins is worried that something has happened to her married lover, Robert. After the police don't make his disappearance a priority, Naomi lies to them and says that Robert raped her three years ago, figuring that they will work harder to find him. Naomi's untruth leads DS Charlie Zailer and her partner DC Simon Waterhouse to try separate fact from fiction as they become involved with a group of liars and reluctant witnesses. Naomi was, in fact, raped a few years ago, but by whom? Is her case connected to incidents with other women that Charlie and Simon have discovered? And what about Robert? Hurting Distance is a read-alike for Nicci French with a little Minette Walters thrown in.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Between Here and April by Deborah Copaken Hogan

Elizabeth Burns has traded her life as a journalist who travels to the world's hot spots for one in New York City, living with her husband, Mark, and two daughters. Now, at age 41, she has fluff assignments and a husband completely absorbed in his work. When she faints one evening, memories of her childhood friend, April Cassidy, who disappeared one day, come flooding back. Elizabeth decides to delve into what happened to April and finds that April's mother, Adele, severely depressed, took her two daughters' lives along with her own. What caused Adele to commit this horrible act over thirty years ago? Elizabeth's research into the past (she decides to produce a documentary on the subject) causes her to confront her own current unhappiness along with traumatic events from her upbringing and reporting career. Between Here and April is, at times, an unflinching portrait of marriage and motherhood, yet I could not put it down.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Time of My Life by Allison Winn Scotch

Jillian is a stay-at-home mom who lives with her husband, Henry, and 18-month-old daughter, Katie, in the suburbs. Her marriage is floundering and she is shocked to discover that, upon waking one morning, she's stuck seven years in the past. At the time, she was living with her boyfriend, Jackson, in New York City and had a successful job in advertising. Now, back in the past and knowing how things will turn out, will she break-up with Jackson so she can fall in love with Henry or does she tweak her relationship with Jackson to make it continue? Jillian also has the chance to reconcile with her mother (which she refused to do years ago) and possibly help a friend, Megan, stay alive. In Time of My Life, the pages fly by as the reader follows Jillian on her re-journey. Jillian's hindsight/foresight makes the story fascinating reading. It reminded me of Sophie Kinsella's Remember Me?, abeit more serious.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Keepsake by Tess Gerritsen

Dr. Maura Isles is asked to observe a CT scan on a mummy that's been found at Boston's Crispin Museum. When the relic turns out to be fake, Detective Jane Rizzoli is brought in on the case. Who would cover a dead body in ancient wrappings? The answer lies with the mysterious Egyptologist Josephine Pulcillo. Josephine has a past that she would like to remain secret. But after someone else is found murdered, Jane and her partner, Detective Barry Frost, delve into the Crispin Museum's doings and Josephine's private life. The killer seems to have a love for performing creepy rituals after death, including making a tsantsa (a shrunken head). Can Jane uncover his identity before he turns another women into a trophy? The Keepsake is another fast-paced ride with Gerritsen's series characters of Isles and Rizzoli.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Draining Lake by Arnaldur Indridason

Inspector Erlendur Sveinsson and his colleagues Sigurdur Oli and Elinborg are called to a lake outside of Reykjavik after a hydrologist finds a skeleton in a drained lake. After some preliminary studies, it appears that the bones (with a hole in the skull) have been there since the 1970's. An old Soviet listening device is also found underneath the body. To try and identify the skeleton, the detectives focus on men who went missing in the early 1970's. Interpersed throughout the novel is the story of Tomas, who went to study at the University of Leipzig in his socialist youth. Are the bones somehow connected to spies in Iceland years ago? Indridason's story of Icelanders during the Cold War is particularly intriguing and, as usual (this is the fourth in the series), the insight into Erlendur's life, the foreign setting and the absorbing mystery make for compelling reading.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A Guide to the Birds of East Africa by Nicholas Drayson

Mild-mannered Mr Malik really wants to ask fellow birdwatcher Rose Mbikwa to the Hunt Club Ball in contemporary Nairobi. He hasn't mailed the invitation yet, when his childhood nemesis Harry Khan resurfaces and takes a liking to Rose himself. With both Malik and Khan wanting Rose as their date, Malik's social club gets the idea for a competition--the man that sees the most species of birds in a week wins the right to invite Rose. Khan enlists the help of two Aussie birdwatchers and goes far afield to see as many birds as possible, while Malik stays close to home in his quest. While the story might be simple, Drayson infuses his novel with a hero to cheer for (Malik) and a colorful cast of secondary characters and a vivid setting. A read-alike for Alexander McCall Smith's No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series. An utter delight....don't miss it....

Sunday, September 7, 2008

When the White House Was Ours by Porter Shreve

Daniel Truitt's family has moved around a lot in his childhood. In 1976, when he's twelve, his father, Pete, decides to move the family to Washington D.C. so he can open up his own school, Our House. Pete is going to run it out of the family's abode with his wife, Val, as one of the teachers. With little money and a crumbling house, but a lot of spirit and free-thinking ideals, the family is, at times, stretched to the limit. Soon, Daniel's Uncle Linc, Linc's wife Cinnamon and their troublemaking friend Tino move in and join the staff. Getting students to attend Our House is a struggle, but the reader is completely charmed by the Truitt family and their ragtag story. Shreve again (as in his last novel, Drives Like a Dream) has created fully realized characters and a unique story. The book reminded me of The Rich Part of Life by Jim Kokoris and An Ocean in Iowa by Peter Hedges. When the White House Was Ours is a humorous slice into the life of a family during our bicentennial year.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

A Cure for Night by Justin Peacock

Joel Deveraux is starting to put his life back together after losing his job at a prestigious New York law firm due to drug use. Now clean, he works in Brooklyn as a public defender, handling arraignments day-in and day-out. He is then given the opportunity to assist colleague Myra Goldstein in defending Lorenzo Tate against a murder charge. Lorenzo is accused of the killing of college student Seth Lipton and the attempted murder of Devin Wallace. Joel and Myra work together, interviewing witnesses and trying to build a case to keep Lorenzo out of prison. Their investigation puts Joel close to the temptations that almost ruined his life and both he and Myra become immersed in the case, at times dangerously so. Peacock is able to very successfully combine the story of Joel's recovery along with that of preparing for trial. Readers of legal fiction will be overjoyed to find a new author.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Grave Surprise by Charlaine Harris

In the second book of the Harper Connelly series, Harper and her stepbrother, Tolliver, are invited to Memphis by professor Clyde Nunley to demonstrate her ability to psychically identify the causes of death for already-buried corpses. Everyone gets more than they bargained for when Harper discovers the body of eleven-year-old Tabitha Morgenstern who was abducted from Nashville. Harper had previously been hired by the Morgensterns to find Tabitha, but had no luck and had to give up her search. The police and the media are suspicious of Harper's connection to the case. Even Harper and Tolliver wonder about the coincidence. Is someone trying to frame Harper? Grave Surprise is a solid addition to this mystery series. I blogged about the third book, Ice Cold Grave last October.

Friday, August 29, 2008

The Black Path by Asa Larsson

Rebecka Martinsson has left her job at a prestigious law firm in Stockholm and moved into her grandmother's house in far Northern Sweden. She is still on the mend from the injuries she suffered in the last book in the series, The Blood Spilt. Rebecka is offered a position working as a prosecutor nearby and she decides to accept. Inspector Anne-Maria Mella and her partner, Sven-Erik Stalnacke, meanwhile, are investigating the brutal murder of Inna Wattrang, an executive at Kallis Mining. Rebecka's and Anne-Maria's paths cross frequently as the police try to uncover who wanted Inna dead. Rebecka assists them, burying herself in her work. Inna and her brother, Diddi, were friends with the head of Kallis Mining, Mauri Kallis for years. Their relationships became more complex over time, mixing business with friendship. Could someone close to Inna have been the one to harm her? The Black Path is the third book in the Rebecka Martinsson series. In the acknowledgements at the end of the mystery, Larsson says the series is half finished. Normally, authors aren't so upfront about how long a series will be. So, as a regular reader of the books, it's interesting to think about where the character of Rebecka will end up. Larsson immerses the reader in the Swedish setting and creates a cast of characters that are well-drawn. The book reminded me of Ruth Rendell.

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Grift by Debra Ginsberg

Marina Marks has made a living as a psychic since she was a child--forced into the profession by her drug-addicted mother. However, her only true skill was being able to read people's body language in order to make educated guesses. Now, as an adult, she has moved to Southern California from Florida because there will be more people who need and believe in her services. Marina's regular clients include Cooper (who can't get his boyfriend to commit), Madeline (desperately trying to get pregnant with Marina's help), and Eddie (a serial, married womanizer). All three customers rely on Marina tremendously and when she begins to have a social life of her own, they get jealous. Marina's life is also complicated by the fact that she is actually getting the power to see her clients' futures. When Marina's boyfriend is found dead, who could possibly be to blame?

Friday, August 22, 2008

Thirty-Three Teeth by Colin Cotterill

Dr. Siri Paiboun's adventures as the only coroner in 1977 communist Laos continue in the second book in the series. Siri is asked to identify the nationalities of two badly burned corpses in Luang Prabang, the Royal Capital. He also is intrigued by the deaths of people who have fallen from the Ministry of Sport, Information and Culture building. On the bizarre side, a creature is killing individuals around Vientiane. It might be a bear, but could it be something more sinister? The reader learns a lot more about Siri's background and the spirit/ghost element is even more prominent in this book than in the The Coroner's Lunch, the first book of the series.

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry

Towner Whitney is called back to her childhood home of Salem, Massachusetts when she gets word that her Aunt Eva has disappeared. Towner left Salem after her twin sister, Lyndley, died at seventeen and hasn't been back since. The Whitneys are an eccentric family who were some of the first residents of the town. Aunt Eva owns a tea room and "reads" lace to see people's futures, while Towner's mother, May, lives on nearby Yellow Dog Island (which she won't leave) and rescues abused women. When Aunt Eva's body is found drowned, the traumatic memories of Towner's life in Salem come rushing back, especially those involving Lyndley and her father, Cal--who was violent towards the Whitney women. Cal now, fifteen years later, is the leader of a sort-of cult, "the Calvinists" (not to be confused with actual Calvinists), who stir up trouble around Salem bothering the local witches and other residents. Did Cal have something to do with Eva's death and will Towner be able to stay safe amidst all the heartache and violence of the past? Luckily, Detective John Rafferty is there to try and find out the truth about Eva's passing and, in the process, falls for Towner. The Lace Reader is, first and foremost, a novel about family, with the descriptive setting of Salem mixed in along with a gothic feel and touch of mystery.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Pyramid: And Four Other Kurt Wallander Mysteries by Henning Mankell

In The Pyramid, police detective Kurt Wallander is featured in five stories tracing his beginnings as a cop in Malmo, Sweden in 1969 up until the last story, which takes place in 1989--right before the events of Faceless Killers (the first Wallander mystery). The stories provide a bit more background for Wallander's character. In "Wallander's First Case," he is dating Mona (who will become his wife) and is immersed in investigating the murder of his neighbor, Artur Halen. In the other stories, the reader sees the disintegration of his relationship with Mona, his movement up the police ranks and move to Ystad, where he currently lives. Regular readers of the mysteries will be glad to have something new to read about Wallander, since Mankell has stopped writing the series. For other readers, starting with Faceless Killers is the best option. As I've mentioned before on my blog, this is one of my favorite series. The characterization of Wallander, along with an always-fascinating puzzle make these books police procedural standouts. The Pyramid will be published next month.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Fractured by Karin Slaughter

Abigail Campano returns to her home one afternoon to find her daughter murdered, with the attacker still standing over her body. Abigail fights him with all the strength she has, killing him in the process. The Atlanta police then arrive, along with Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent Will Trent. Will sees something at the crime scene that the other detectives miss and soon they are looking for a kidnapped teenage girl who probably doesn't have long to live. Complicating the case are the girl's father (who knows Will from when they were both in the Atlanta Children's Home in their youths) and a new partner named Faith Mitchell (who doesn't exactly trust Will since he made a case against crooked cops, including her mother). Fractured is Slaughter's second book featuring Will Trent. The first is Triptych which I haven't read. I liked the character of Will a lot and definitely want to go back and read Triptych when I have time.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Fugitive Blue by Dani Shapiro

Joanna Hirsch is an actress who has enjoyed recent success in an off-Broadway production. She is still haunted, however, by her artist mother leaving when she was twelve. This was also the age that she met the other significant person in her life, Billy Overmeyer. Fugitive Blue pieces together a picture of Joanna’s life, alternating between flashbacks of her from age twelve to the present, along with her struggles with abandonment issues and the fact that she and Billy were only ever friends. This is the third Dani Shapiro novel that I’ve blogged about. The other two, Family History and Black and White were much more interesting and complex and show a writer who’s really come into her own. Fugitive Blue was published in 1993.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Sweetheart by Chelsea Cain

The action in Sweetheart picks up several weeks after the events in Heartsick, Cain's first novel featuring police detective Archie Sheridan, vicious serial killer Gretchen Lowell, and reporter Susan Ward. Archie is called to investigate a homicide in a Portland, Oregon park with his partner Henry Sobol. He's back living with his estranged wife, Debbie and their two young children. He has also stopped visiting Gretchen in prison. Archie, however, is still a shell of a man--he has addictions (to pills and Gretchen) and a death wish. Susan, meanwhile, is trying to break the story of a senator's affair with his underage babysitter. When Susan's mentor and the senator are in a deadly, suspicious car crash, her path and Archie's cross again. Then Gretchen escapes from prison and several lives are in danger (especially Archie's family's and Susan's). Will Archie be able to recapture Gretchen or will her damaged, sick hold over him be his undoing? Also, will Susan and the police be able to uncover who's behind the park killing and the car accident? Sweetheart is a page turner with some gruesome depictions of violence. For people who are looking for a new author who writes about serial killers. The books comes out in September.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Shining City by Seth Greenland

Marcus Ripps' life is on a downslide. He's just lost his job, his mother-in-law has moved in and the family is sinking deep into debt. Then his estranged older brother, Julian, dies and leaves Marcus his dry cleaning establishment, Shining City. It turns out that Shining City is actually a front for a prostitution ring. Still, Marcus doesn't take long to decide to take over. He becomes Breeze the pimp, offering "his girls" a retirement plan, health insurance, and even a book club. Marcus vows to stay in business long enough to get back on his feet financially and provide a nest egg for himself and his wife, Jan. But when Jan joins him in the business (that they've renamed Smart Tarts) and Marcus is threatened by a local madam, will he quit the life sooner than he anticipated? Shining City is a quirky novel about family, happiness, and the American dream.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Still Waters by Nigel McCrery

DCI Mark Lapslie is on medical leave from the Essex Police Force when he's called back to work on a case. As the result of a car accident, a body has been unearthed with injuries that bear a resemblance to those seen in a previous case that Lapslie worked on. Lapslie has a condition called synaesthesia that causes him to taste sounds. It has gotten so severe that he had to separate from his wife and children. Now, called back to lead a murder investigation, Lapslie tries to keep his synaesthesia in check while working with DS Emma Bradbury. For some reason, someone is following their investigation very closely and Lapslie has been told by his superior not to spend too much time of the case. Despite these odds, Lapslie is on the trail of a killer who preys upon and poisons older women. Will he be able to catch her before she strikes again?

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Sleeping Arrangements by Madeleine Wickham

Chloe, a designer, desperately needs a holiday. She and her partner, Philip, are taking their sons Sam and Nat for a week at her friend Gerard's Spanish villa. Hugh Stratton is looking forward to his own vacation for a chance to bond with his two young daughters and his wife, Amanda. Chloe's and Hugh's hopes for relaxation turn to bewilderment and slight tension when both families realize that Gerard (their common friend) has invited them for the same week. Chloe and Hugh also share a secret--they were a couple years ago. With both Chloe's and Hugh's relationships on the rocks, will they be tempted to become involved again? In Sleeping Arrangements, we get the points of view of a variety of characters--Chloe, Hugh, Philip, Sam, and the nanny, Jenna. This is one thing that differentiates these books from those Wickham writes under the name Sophie Kinsella. I quite like getting inside various characters' heads, so I have enjoyed all of Wickham's books that I've read (The Gatecrasher, Swimming Pool Sunday, and The Tennis Party). Sleeping Arrangements was a light, at times humorous read--perfect for vacation or a day at the beach.

Monday, July 14, 2008

The Brass Verdict by Michael Connelly

Defense attorney Mickey Haller hasn't practiced law in a year but he's given all of colleague Jerry Vincent's clients after Vincent is murdered. Vincent was working on a huge case--defending Walter Elliot, a movie studio head accused of killing his wife and her lover. Mickey is catching up with his workload when he discovers that Vincent's computer and current files are missing and he learns that Elliot wants to proceed with his own trial as soon as possible, in order to clear his name. Mickey also has to worry about the fact that Vincent's killer is still at large and that his work for Vincent's clients might put him in harm's way. LAPD Det. Harry Bosch (and Connelly's main series character) is the lead investigator on Vincent's murder, so his path crosses Mickey's frequently, especially since Bosch feels Mickey knows more than he's telling. The book is told from Mickey's point of view, so we only see Bosch through his eyes. Jack McEvoy, the protagonist of The Poet, also makes an appearance. Mickey Haller first appeared in Connelly's book The Lincoln Lawyer. While I always enjoy Connelly's writing style and the way he presents the story, I had figured out who was behind Vincent's murder quite early on. Harry Bosch is also one of my favorite series characters, so I prefer him to Mickey Haller. The Brass Verdict comes out in October.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Without a Backward Glance by Kate Veitch

The four McDonald siblings have grown up, but their lives are still effected by their mother abandoning the family almost forty years ago. Oldest child Deborah became the caretaker for her brothers and sister when their mother left and now is in a less-than-perfect marriage. Robert lives happily with wife Vesna, but suffers from compulsive tendencies. Younger brother James, now a painter, has always been handsome and easygoing, but when he is put in touch with Rosemarie, their long-lost mother, he has his own crisis of conscience. Meanwhile, Meredith, the baby of the family, is very close with her father, Alex (who may be suffering from demetia), yet drinks too much. In and around Melbourne, they all struggle with their present and past lives--individually and as a family. Without a Backwards Glance reminded me of The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Stalking Susan by Julie Kramer

Minneapolis TV reporter Riley Spartz is looking for the next big story when a source tells her about two women named Susan who were murdered a year apart over a decade ago. Their killers were never found and Riley's source, retiring homicide detective Nick Garnett, figures she might be able to succeed where the cops failed, especially since he feels the cases are connected. Riley soon finds other Susans who were possibly murdered, but has several suspects and not a lot of concrete evidence to narrow the list down. In her personal life, Riley is recovering from losing her husband so early in their marriage. Riley is trying to juggle grabbing great ratings for her stories while mending her broken heart. Stalking Susan is more of a mystery than a thriller and, while not quirky like Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series, it does have the same feeling--female amateur detective but not really cozy.

Monday, July 7, 2008

A Gentleman's Guide to Graceful Living by Michael Dahlie

Arthur Camden's life is a mess. His wife of more than thirty years has left him and the import-export business that his grandfather started one hundred years ago has collapsed. Alone for the first time, Arthur wonders about the next chapter in his life. Comic trouble, however, seems to follow Arthur wherever he goes--his exclusive fly-fishing club, visiting a friend in France, and a family gathering on Nantucket. Arthur also searches for romance with a friend's help while learning to make choices for himself. He is a fumbling, yet endearing man in this charming, laugh out loud novel.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

No One You Know by Michelle Richmond

Twenty years ago, Ellie Enderlin's sister, Lila, was murdered and her killer was never found. At the time, Ellie had confided in one of her college professors, Andrew Thorpe. He then wrote a best-selling true crime book about Lila's death, even though Ellie begged him not to. Years later, Ellie is in Nicaragua for her job as a cupper (a professional coffee taster and buyer), when she runs into Peter McConnell, who was involved with Lila. They were both promising mathematicians at Stanford. Peter left San Francisco after he was named in Thorpe's book as the killer. After talking with Peter, Ellie believes he's innocent. Their meeting makes Ellie recall her life since Lila's death and how her sister's absence has affected her family. Ellie then decides to delve into the past to try and find Lila's killer. No One You Know is similar to the books of Jodi Picoult, but a bit more densely written.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Chasing Darkness by Robert Crais

Three years ago, Los Angeles private detective Elvis Cole helped clear Lionel Byrd, accused of killing Yvonne Bennett. Now, Byrd is found dead with a photo album that has pictures of seven murdered women, including Bennett. Was Cole responsible for helping a guilty man go free? Cole wrestles with this question while trying to find out more about Byrd's death and the women he may have slain. Soon, Cole believes the police are trying to bury the truth and he realizes that he must uncover it, both for himself and the victims' families. Crais again succeeds in writing a fast-paced novel that's impossible to put down. While Chasing Darkness appears to be a bit shorter than his other recent novels, it really means that it's a tightly plotted novel with no padding or wasted words.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

I Shall Not Want by Julia Spencer-Fleming

Episcopal priest Clare Fergusson is trying to get on with her life after her friendship (and possible relationship) with Millers Kill police chief Russ Van Alstyne was damaged in the last book in the series, All Mortal Flesh. Clare has recently rejoined the National Guard and agrees to aid nun Lucia Pirone to provide help to the migrant workers in the area. Clare's volunteerism soon leads her into trouble when she consents to house one of the workers and dead bodies begin to pile up. Are these illegal aliens involved in drug-running or are they caught in the crossfire? Because of the crimes, Clare's and Russ's paths cross frequently. Will they be able to solve the problems between them before it's too late? Spencer-Fleming writes another enjoyable mystery. The character of Hadley Knox, a new addition to the Millers Kill Police Department, is a nice touch.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Made in the U.S.A. by Billie Letts

Teenager Lutie McFee and her younger brother, Fate, are alone after their father's ex-girlfriend, Floy Satterfield, drops dead in the local Wal Mart. The kids' father had abandoned them to Floy in their hometown of Spearfish, South Dakota and went to Las Vegas. They decide to try and find him there rather than be put in foster care. With hardly any money, it's a challenge for Lutie and Fate to survive in the large city. Living in Floy's car, they quickly become familar with homeless life. However, a mysterious person is looking out for them--giving them food and gassing up the car. As the situation gets more desperate, will the stranger become their salvation? In Made in the U.S.A., Billie Letts is back in fine form. The book is very similar to her first novel, Where the Heart Is, but has some darker situations.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Mind's Eye by Hakan Nesser

Janek Mitter wakes up after a night of heavy drinking to find his wife, Eva Ringmar, dead in their bathtub. He calls the police and soon after is arrested and convicted of her murder. But DCI Van Veeteren is not convinced Mitter is guilty, especially after he turns up dead. Did the same person kill Janek and Eva and, if so, who could have possibly wanted the two schoolteachers dead? Van Veeteren and his team interview many people in order to try and find some clues that would lead them to the identity of the murderer. Mind's Eye is the first book in the Van Veeteren series, but the third to be translated into English and be published in the U.S. (after Borkmann's Point and The Return). Usually, I don't like the practice of publishing mysteries out of order. But, Mind's Eye is really the weakest of the three books (both in plot and especially characterization—Van Veeteren and his gang of policeman are quite unlikable at times). New readers should start with Borkmann's Point instead.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Fearless Fourteen by Janet Evanovich

A teenager named Zook who spraypaints everything in sight and has Stephanie Plum as a babysitter. Famous sixtyish singer Brenda who possesses a tart tongue and attitude to match. A guy named Mooner that has fashioned a potato gun weapon that maybe works too well. These are three new colorful characters that Evanovich introduces in Fearless Fourteen. In addition, Stephanie and Lula are up to their usual antics, while trying to do their jobs as bounty hunters. When Morelli's distant cousin Dom is released from prison and hints that the millions he stole from a bank years ago are hidden at Morelli's house, things get even crazier, as money hungry people start digging in his yard. Dom's sister, Loretta (also Zook's mother), is then kidnapped. Will Stephanie and her gang be able to resolve the situation peacefully? Fearlesss Fourteen was another fun diversion in this long-running series.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Black Out by Lisa Unger

Annie Powers holds a dark secret that she would rather forget. Several years ago, she was Ophelia March, a young woman with no way out of a bad situation (precipitated by her mother's involvement with a serial killer on death row). Now, she's built a life in Florida with her husband, Gray, and young daughter, Victory. But memories are starting to flood back in her mind and someone seems to be following her. Can Annie be strong and conquer Ophelia's demons and finally overcome those who would hurt her and her family? While Lisa Unger's first two books, Beautiful Lies and Sliver of Truth, shared a main character, Black Out is a stand-alone woman-in-jeopardy novel, similar to but more complex than the books of Mary Higgins Clark and Circumstances Unknown by Jonellen Hecker.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Where Memories Lie by Deborah Crombie

Police detectives Gemma James and Duncan Kincaid are having a dinner party for their colleagues when Gemmaʼs friend, Dr. Erika Rosenthal, calls and asks for her help. Erika has seen a picture in an auction catalog of a brooch her father made over fifty years ago. Erika lost the brooch in Germany during World War II and sheʼs wondering how it came to be in the brochure. Gemmaʼs inquiries about the piece of jewelry cause the auction house employees to become very uneasy. Then someone is killed and Duncan and his team head up the investigation. Gemma unofficially helps out while simultaneously dealing with the sudden illness of her mother and lingering thoughts that she and Duncan should marry. The mystery goes back and forth between the past (where the reader learns that Erikaʼs husband was murdered in the 1950ʼs) and the present in order to uncover the culprit. Another enjoyable police procedural from Crombie.