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.