Saturday, January 31, 2009

A Rule Against Murder by Louise Penny

Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and his wife, Reine-Marie, enjoy their time at the Manoir Bellechasse every summer. Regular guests for more than thirty years, it's a chance for the couple to unwind and relax. This year, the rest of the rooms in the rural Quebec inn are taken up by the Finney family, who can't seem to get along and find it hard to resist sniping at each other. It's no surprise, then, that one of the family is soon found dead (in a most intriguing way) and Gamache is joined by his colleagues, Inspector Guy Beauvoir and Agent Isabelle Lacoste, to try and uncover the murderer. Almost every Finney is a suspect, since they all disliked each other so much. Add in the staff of the hotel and it's obvious that Gamache has quite a case on his hands. Gamache's task is also complicated by the Finney family's dredging up details about his own father. A Rule Against Murder is the fourth book in the Armand Gamache series. A must for readers who like mysteries with lots of detail about the locale and a good puzzle.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Runner by Thomas Perry

Jane Whitefield made it her life's work to help people in danger to disappear forever by assisting in their escape and crafting new identities for them. For the past five years, however, Jane has been living a quiet life in upstate New York and is the wife of doctor Carey McKinnon. One evening, a pregnant young woman named Christine finds Jane and explains that a man named Richard Beale is after her. Richard has hired six goons to get Christine back, no matter the cost. It's six against one, but the group may have met their match in Jane.... Runner is the long awaited (nine years) next book in the Jane Whitefield series. It's my first, having only read the last few stand-alone thrillers from Perry. Since I had a very hard time tearing myself away from the book, I will definitely be going back and reading the others.

Monday, January 19, 2009

A Beautiful Place to Die by Malla Nunn

In 1952, Detective Sergeant Emmanuel Cooper is called from Johannesburg to a crime scene near the small town of Jacob's Rest. The head of the local police force, Captain Pretorius, has been murdered. The Captain's five sons, being from a pure Afrikaner family, are out for blood and would never accept that a white person could be the culprit. In addition, under apartheid, the town of Jacob's Rest has developed a culture of fear, division, and violence among its people. Emmanuel also faces personal obstacles --he is an outsider (an Englishman) and hears voices. Then the police's elite (and corrupt) Security Branch moves in to take over the case and Emmanuel decides to continue investigating in secret. He knows he must find the Captain's killer before they do. A Beautiful Place to Die is a leisurely-paced mystery with full descriptions of the South African landscape and life in a small town under apartheid for whites, coloreds, and blacks. Nunn's depictions of secondary characters like Constable Samuel Shabalala, a Zulu, are also memorable.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Three Weeks to Say Goodbye by C.J. Box

Jack and Melissa McGuane are thrilled that they are parents, having adopted their daughter, Angelina, nine months ago. Their nightmare begins when they get a call from a woman at the adoption agency telling them that the birth father never signed his rights away. The father, Garrett, is a high school student and the son of influental Denver Judge John Moreland. Garrett wants his baby back and the McGuanes are too devastated to imagine their lives without Angelina. When Jack and Melissa meet Garrett and his father, they realize that Garrett couldn't care less about her. It is Judge Moreland who wants the baby, although they can't figure out why. The judge gives the couple three final weeks with Angelina. With help from their friends, albeit with little money or influence, Jack and Melissa try to figure out some way to keep their little girl. This is C.J. Box's second stand-alone novel. He follows in the footsteps of other mystery writers who have starting writing thrillers (Harlan Coben, Robert Crais, Linwood Barclay, Jeff Abbott, and David Rosenfelt). I could hardly put it down.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Plum Spooky by Janet Evanovich

Bounty hunter Stephanie Plum has been looking for Martin Munch all week. He skipped out of town, missing a court date after beating up his boss at a research lab and stealing a magnetometer. Then Stephanie's friend, Diesel, moves himself into her apartment because he's looking for a guy named Wulf who's been seen with Munch. Diesel has a feeling that Wulf and Munch are up to no good and tells Stephanie that Wulf gets pleasure out of doing harm to people. Stephanie also has another new roommate, a monkey named Carl that she's been asked to babysit. When it looks as if Munch and Wulf have decamped to the Pine Barrens (an area of South Jersey populated by few people and widespread forests), Stephanie and friends are forced to head down there. Soon, the gang are in way over their madcap heads....

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Never Tell a Lie by Hallie Ephron

Ivy Rose and her husband, David, are awaiting the birth of their first child when they decide to hold a garage sale to get rid of the stuff the previous owner of their Victorian home left behind. Ivy is surprised when Melinda White, a high-school classmate (and whom she hasn't seen since then) shows up. Melinda is pregnant, too, and David (who also went to school with them) agrees to show Melinda the inside of their home, since Melinda knew the former owner. Soon, however, the police are questioning the Roses. It seems that, after going into the house with David, Melinda was never seen again. The pressure on Ivy is unbearable, since the police consider David their prime suspect. Naturally, it is compounded by her being nine months pregnant. Soon, evidence begins piling up. Ivy wonders how much she can rely on David and who possibly is out to ruin their lives. Never Tell a Lie is a page turner that fans of Mary Higgins Clark will enjoy. While not as complex storywise and in character development as the novels of Harlan Coben, his readers who don't mind a female protagonist might like this also.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Wedding Season by Katie Fforde

Sarah is a wedding planner who's lost faith in love after having her heart broken years ago. All of Sarah's skills are put to the test when she finds she has two weddings on the same day--her sister Lily's and that of Carrie Condy, a famous actress. Luckily, she has the help of her friends, Elsa (a dress designer) and Bron (a hairstylist) to provide moral support and to assist in their respective fields. Their personal lives aren't going so well, either. Elsa is single and Bron lives with her possessive boyfriend, Roger. Sarah has to admit, at least to herself, that she's attracted to Hugo, the photographer she sometimes works with at weddings. When Bron leaves Roger, is there a chance that all three women will find love like they help celebrate? Again, Katie Fforde has written a novel of cozy friendships and romance. Wedding Season has not yet been published in the U.S.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

My Favorite Books of 2008

Here's my list of the books I enjoyed most in 2008. Some of my picks really don't fit into any genre. I read a lot of mysteries, but none were good enough to break the top five.

In alphabetical order by author:

A Gentleman's Guide to Graceful Living by Michael Dahlie

This book is memorable because of Dahlie's fully realized characterization of Arthur Camden, the clueless "gentle" gentleman and his aristocratic world.

A Guide to the Birds of East Africa by Nicholas Drayson

A charming story about two men who stage a contest to see who can identify the most birds in a week. The winner gets the right to ask the object of their affections to the Hunt Club Ball.

Every Last Cuckoo by Kate Maloy

I really enjoyed the story of Sarah, who learns to be comfortable with the next stage of her life--widowhood.

When the White House Was Ours by Porter Shreve

Shreve's flashback to our bicentennial year told through the eyes of a teenage boy is quirky, vivid, and heartfelt.

The Night Stalker by James Swain

The second book in the Jack Carpenter series is the best page turner I read in 2008.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Unseen by Mari Jungstedt

It's summertime on the Swedish isle of Gotland and fears are raised when Helena Hillerstrom and her dog are found murdered near the shore. DS Anders Knutas and his colleagues are surprised by the brutal nature of the crime and look into Helena's life for a possible suspect. When another woman is killed, even more pressure is put on the police because of the large influx of tourists onto the island. Knutas is also trying to find out if there's any connection between the women. Meanwhile, journalist Johan Berg of Swedish National Television has been sent to Gotland from Stockholm to report on the women's deaths. While there, he becomes interested in Helena's best friend, Emma Winarve, even though she's married. As in Unspoken, the second book in the series (Unseen is the first), Jungstedt gives the reader the points of view of Knutas, Johan, and Emma, along with an interesting mystery. Unseen also has a sense of place for several locations on the island of Gotland.