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.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris

David Sedaris' latest collection features stories from both his childhood and the present. In "The Understudy," the reader gets a glimpse of the women with whom David's parents entrusted their children to when they went on vacation by themselves and in "Adult Figures Charging Toward a Concrete Toadstool," Sedaris humorously discusses the differences between himself and his parents when it comes to collecting art. The best stories covering his adult life are "Solution to Saturday's Puzzle" and "The Smoking Section." "Solution" is about Sedaris' misadventures with his seatmate on a plane and "Smoking," the longest story in the book, covers his three months living in Toyko in an attempt to quit smoking. While I enjoyed the collection, I long for more stories about him growing up. His book, Naked, with classic stories like "Get Your Ya-Ya's Out!" and "Dinah, the Christmas Whore" is my favorite.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Nothing to Lose by Lee Child

Jack Reacher is heading across the country on foot from Maine to San Diego when he finds himself in Despair, Colorado which is right next to the town of Hope. When he's arrested because he won't leave town, Reacher wonders what they're trying to hide. Not one to be told what to do, Reacher decides he'll stay around for a while to figure out Despair's secrets. The town is run by a man who appears to have tremendous control over all of its activities and citizens. Reacher is joined in his search by Vaughan, a female cop who also provides a romantic diversion for him. It's Reacher and Vaughan against a whole town in an effort to uncover the truth. In this latest book in the Jack Reacher series, Lee Child again creates an interesting puzzle for the reader to unravel. Some readers, however, might be put off by the political tone of the novel and the fact that the storyline is reminiscent of another Jack Reacher novel, Echo Burning.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

A Fatal Waltz by Tasha Alexander

As a favor to her good friend Ivy, Lady Emily Ashton has agreed to be a guest at Lord Fortescue's estate. Emily and Lord Fortescue detest each other, which makes the weekend a bit of a trial. When a fellow guest is murdered and Ivy's husband, Robert, is arrested for the crime, things go from bad to worse. Robert then asks for Emily's help in clearing his name. Emily's investigation takes her from England to Vienna, where she's immersed in the Viennese culture of the time (coffeehouses, meeting Gustav Klimt) and the world of anarchists, blackmail, and secrets. In addition, her relationship with fiancee Colin Hargreaves is threatened when she learns about his past affair with Countess Von Lange. In the end will all be well with Lady Emily and those she holds dear? A Fatal Waltz is another solid addition to this mystery series. Even though they're set in the present, the novels about Kick Keswick by Marne Davis Kellogg would be good read-alikes.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Black Seconds by Karin Fossum

Nine-year-old Ida Joner bicycles into town and disappears. Her mother, Helga, is distraught that her only child has gone missing. Inspector Konrad Sejer and his colleague, Jacob Skarre, are given the case and have very few leads. The reader's suspicions fall on Emil Johannes (a fiftyish loner who doesn't speak) and Ida's teenage cousin, Tomme, who was in a car accident the night that Ida disappeared and seems to be hiding something. Slowly, with great effect, we learn what happened to Ida and who was responsible. As with her previous books in the series, Fossum creates a mystery that combines the police procedural with the psychological. Her characterizations are first-rate and I can now say that she's my second-favorite Scandavian mystery writer, after Henning Mankell.