Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Dark Rose by Erin Kelly

Louisa, nearing forty, works in Warwickshire, restoring the gardens of Kelstice Lodge. She's still haunted, however, by an event twenty years ago involving her then-boyfriend, Adam. When Paul, not yet 20, comes to work at Kelstice Lodge, Louisa is stunned by his resemblance to Adam. Paul, it turns out, is hiding from his own past. Paul has given evidence against his best friend, Daniel, implicating him in a murder. He worries what would happen if Daniel or Daniel's father, Carl, find out where he's living. Combining the present story of Louisa and Paul along with slowly revealing their pasts, Kelly has written a novel of psychological suspense that's hard to put down once you're into it. For readers who enjoy Ruth Rendell and Tana French.

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Betrayal of Trust by Susan Hill

Heavy rains and flooding come to the English town of Lafferton,  unearthing skeletal remains of two females.  Expectations are that one is teenager Harriet Lowther, who disappeared from a bus stop over fifteen years ago.  After a positive identification is made, DCS Simon Serrailler pores over all the interviews and casework that was done at the time that Harriet went missing to see what information needs to be looked at more closely.  The identity of the other victim, though, remains a mystery, but investigators can tell that it's a female from Eastern Europe.  Along with the two cases, Simon is preoccupied with a married woman he meets at a party named Rachel.  He is also supporting his sister, Cat, recently widowed with three children. While I enjoyed The Betrayal of Trust, the story focused too much on the issue of euthanasia, a subplot that, at times, threatened to overwhelm the mystery.  Good, but not at the level of the first three books of the Simon Serrailler series, of which The Betrayal of Trust is the sixth.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Leaving Everything Most Loved by Jacqueline Winspear

In 1933, private detective Maisie Dobbs is asked by the police to solve the murder of Usha Pramal, an educated single woman from India who had been working in England for the past seven years.  Usha was shot dead and found by some children floating in a canal.  Usha's brother has come to England to find justice for his sister, since the official investigation turned up little.  While Maisie and her assistants, Billy and Sandra, delve into Usha's personal life to try and discover who wanted her dead, they are immersed in Indian immigrant culture and learn of the prejudice faced by people of a different color.  Maisie, herself, is also at a crossroads.  She considers closing her detective agency so she can travel, but she's worried about her father, her boyfriend's desire to marry her, and her loyal assistant, Billy's well-being.  Leaving Everything Most Loved is another gem in the long-running Maisie Dobbs series, combining an interesting mystery along with characters you really care about.  It will be published in March.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Invisible by Carla Buckley

When Dana's teenage niece, Peyton, calls and lets her know that her mom Julie, is seriously ill, Dana rushes back to Black Bear, Minnesota--even though she hasn't spoken to her sister, Julie, or been home in almost twenty years. By the time Dana gets there, Julie has passed away, leaving Peyton to live with her dad, Frank--an alcoholic who's fallen off the wagon. We learn that Dana is Peyton's real mother, a fact that Julie and Dana kept from Frank and, of course, Peyton. Dana also becomes focused on the fact that so many people in Black Bear have died from or have kidney disease, even though the number of people diagnosed is “within normal limits.” Dana wonders what in the town is making people sick? In her quest to uncover the truth, Dana isolates herself even more from the citizens of Black Bear. Told through the eyes of Dana and Peyton, Invisible is a story of lost chances, forgiveness, and healing. An OK read, but not up to the standards of Buckley's first book, The Things That Keep Us Here, which was superb. For readers of Jodi Picoult.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Criminal Enterprise by Owen Laukkanen

Laid off from his white collar job, Carter Tomlin has taken up robbing banks to support the wealthy lifestyle to which his family has become accustomed.  He's recruited his secretary, Tricia, and her boyfriend, Dragan, to be his partners.  FBI Agent Carla Windermere is called to the scene of one of the bank robberies and pieces together that it's connected to another, where a witness described a gold Toyota Camry getaway car.  Windermere is eventually able to make a connection between the robberies and Carter Tomlin.  When she interviews Tomlin, she knows he's guilty, even though she doesn't have enough proof.  Her partner, Doughty, completely disagrees with her, and this makes the situation even more difficult.  Tomlin, however, is getting addicted into robbing banks, resorting to violence to get what he wants.  Will Windermere, along with state cop Kirk Stevens, be able to stop Tomlin?  In this second Stevens/Windermere novel, Laukkanen writes a book that, at times, stretches believability, but is, nonetheless, a fast-paced, thrilling read.  It will be published in March.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Bear is Broken by Lachlan Smith

Leo Maxwell has just passed the bar exam. His older brother, Teddy, is well known in San Francisco as a successful criminal defense attorney who might cross legal lines to win a case (although Leo doesn't believe it). When Teddy is shot in the head while next to Leo at lunch one day, Leo is devastated. After their father went to prison for murdering their mother, Teddy raised Leo (with the help of a series of housekeepers).  However, Teddy kept his emotional distance from Leo and never really let him inside of the cases he was working on. Leo decides that he must delve into his brother's life and the people he defended to try and find out who wanted him dead, especially since Teddy made lots of enemies in the police department.  While Teddy lies in a coma, Leo finds himself, at times, in over his head, but never wavering in his quest to find justice for his brother.  Bear is Broken is the first book in the Leo Maxwell series and will be published in February.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Black Box by Michael Connelly

Twenty years ago Danish journalist Anneke Jespersen was gunned down in an alley during the riots in Los Angeles.  Harry Bosch, as part of the LAPD's Open-Unsolved Unit, is in charge of the case and asked for it specifically because he was one of the policeman called to the murder scene--but he couldn't spend time on the case because the city was in chaos.  Bosch wonders what Anneke was doing in Los Angeles--was she on vacation or working, or a bit of both?  As Bosch delves into the case, his boss makes it clear that he feels its going nowhere and Bosch should spend his time elsewhere, but then it goes in an unexpected, forward direction and Bosch finds himself following it to the end, despite the cost.  The Black Box is the latest novel in the Harry Bosch series and is hard to put down.  As usual, Connelly creates a story that's engaging and, in Bosch, a main character that you always want to come out on top.

Friday, November 23, 2012

The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro

Claire Roth has become a pariah in the East Coast art world because of her association with scandal-tainted artist Isaac Cullion.  She makes a meager iving creating reproductions of famous works for sale online.  When Isaac's former art dealer, Aiden Markel, approaches Claire about painting a forgery of Degas' "After the Bath," which was stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum in 1990, she agrees, because he promises her a one woman show at his gallery and $50,000.  Aiden also says that the Degas original will go back to the museum with Claire's forgery going to a collector.  But as Claire begins her research into Degas' technique and the work itself, she discovers that what Aiden gave her as the original is actually a forgery.  Claire decides not to tell Aidan what's she learned, but her revelation plunges her into her own investigation of Degas' and Gardner's relationship and makes her participation in Aidan's scheme even more murky.  The Art Forger is a fascinating introduction into the world of art forgery, including details about famous forgers and the process one goes through in painting a forgery.  The novel reminded me of the author Dani Shapiro. 

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Dark Tide by Elizabeth Haynes

Genevieve has ditched her stressful job in London to live on and remodel a houseboat in Kent.  The reader soon learns that, to quickly raise the money she needed to buy the boat, Genevieve also danced in an exclusive gentlemen's club.  While there, she met a man named Dylan, who asked Genevieve to hold a package for him on her boat for a few months.  She anxiously awaits his call and it's obvious that she has feelings for him.  But when Caddy, a friend from the club, turns up murdered outside her boat after a party, Genevieve begins to worry. Throughout the book, the reader gradually discovers Genevieve's encounters as a dancer and, as her past collides with the present, one wonders if she will find out who's watching her and why they want to do her harm.  While I enjoyed Dark Tide, the book did not have as an engaging a plot as Haynes' first novel, Into the Darkest Corner which was unputdownable.  It will be published in March (its U.K. title is Revenge of the Tide).

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Boyfriend by Thomas Perry

P.I. Jack Till is hired by the parents of Catherine Hamilton to find out who murdered her.  After some preliminary investigating, Till discovers that several women, who (like Catherine) were escorts with strawberry blond hair, were killed in different cities around the country.  Till nicknames the perpetrator "The Boyfriend" and attempts to find him before he claims another victim...  The Boyfriend is the second novel to feature Jack Till (after Silence) and is a compact page turner focusing on Till's hunt for a killer.  After reading numerous Thomas Perry books, I am flummoxed why he is not as well-known as Lee Child or Robert Crais. It will be published in March.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

A Small Hill to Die On by Elizabeth J. Duncan

Penny and her friend Victoria, worry about a new nail and tanning salon opening up in their Welsh village and taking business away from their own Llanelen Spa.  Mai Grimstead, the owner of Nailz, has just moved to town with her husband and two teenage children into Ty Brith Hall, a beautiful old property. When Penny discovers Mai's daughter Ashlee murdered near a waterfall, she is stunned.  She's warned not to do any investigating of her own by her boyfriend, DCI Gareth Davies, but Penny ignores him, unwittingly putting herself in danger.  A Small Hill to Die On is the fourth book in the Penny Brannigan series.  Perfect for readers who enjoy the Lois Meade series by Ann Purser and other British cozy mysteries.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Mrs Queen Takes the Train by William Kuhn

Despite being England's figurehead, Queen Elizabeth II is feeling a bit down.  She secretly decides to travel to Edinburgh from Buckingham Palace to visit her retired yacht, Britannia.  Dressed in a skull hoodie, she makes her way to the train station.  The close members of her staff are stunned to discover that she's missing and decide to find her on their own, without help from the outside authorities.  There's Shirley (her dresser), Anne (her lady-in-waiting), William (her butler), Luke (her equerry), and Rebecca (from the stables).  They are joined by Rajiv, who works at the cheese shop where the cheddar for the Queen's horses is purchased.  Throughout the ordeal, the reader gets to know these six people intimately, and hopes that their fondness for the Queen will ensure that she will be brought back safe and sound--without a lot of fuss.  Mrs Queen Takes the Train is a delightful novel for anglophiles and people who enjoy character-centered cozy stories like Major Pettigrew's Last Stand ,  Mr. Rosenblum Dreams in English, and the books of Maeve Binchy.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Finding Casey by Jo-Ann Mapson

In this sequel to Solomon's Oak, Juniper is now in college and her adoptive parents, Glory and Joseph, have moved into a new home that has a ghost they've named Dolores.  Glory is surprised to find herself pregnant, since she's in her forties--she hopes that it will be trouble-free.  Juniper, meanwhile, still cannot forget her older sister, Casey, who disappeared eight years ago.  Juniper believes Casey's still alive and hopes to someday know what happened to her. Interspersed with the Vigil family's holiday season story is the tale of a young woman named Laurel Smith, who has secretly left a place called the Farm to take her seriously ill daughter to the hospital. Suspicious of everyone because of her own sheltered, isolated life, Laurel hopes that her daughter, Aspen, will get well.  In Finding Casey, Mapson has created a story with a great sense of place in the setting of Santa Fe and characters that are extremely likable and that the reader roots for.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Miss Dreamsville and the Collier County Women's Literary Society by Amy Hill Hearth

Dora, newly divorced, is bored working in the post office in the then-small town of Naples, Florida in 1962. When Jackie Hart moves from Boston with her family it's like a breath of fresh air to Dora and the other outsiders in the town. Jackie has the idea of creating a book group that meets at the local library. Its members are Dora, Jackie, Miss Lansbury (the librarian), Robbie-Lee (who happens to be gay), spinster Plain Jane, elderly Mrs. Bailey White (just released from prison for killing her husband), and African-American servant, Priscilla. The group bonds through their meetings and finds strength from each other when they need it--which is often in the conservative and racist town. Despite the presence of social issues, there is a lightness that shines through the novel. An enjoyable, at times quirky read.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Salvation of a Saint by Keigo Higashino

Toyko businessman Yoshitaka Mashiba is found dead in his home, poisoned by some coffee.  The prime suspect is Mashiba's wife, Ayane, but she was away for the weekend, visiting her parents in Sapporo. Ayane's apprentice in her quilting business, Hiromi Wakayama, found Mashiba and called the police.  It seems they were having an affair.  Detective Kusanagi feels that Hiromi is their prime suspect, while his female colleague Kaoru Utsumi feels that Ayane is responsible-- although proving her guilt will be extremely difficult. The reader knows, however, that Ayane did the deed. With the help of professor Manabu Yukawa, whose nickname is Detective Galileo, they hope they will succeed.  Salvation of a Saint is the second book to feature Kusanagi and Yukawa.  It's a real treat for people who enjoy a good puzzle and the intricacies of trying to prove guilt.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Talking to the Dead by Harry Bingham

Detective Constable Fiona Griffiths keeps to herself on the Cardiff police force.  In her teens, she had a breakdown, the specifics of which she hides from both her colleagues and the reader.  Right now, she is working on the case of a retired cop named Brian Penry (who stole money from a school he was working for), yet she finds herself drawn to an investigation into the murders of a prostitute, Janet Mancini, and her young daughter, April.  Given the task of tracing why wealthy, missing (and presumed dead) businessman Brendan Rattigan's debit card was found at the crime scene, Fiona finds herself digging even deeper into the case, going beyond the bounds set by her superiors. Will Fiona succeed in finding justice for both Janet and April while not losing her job or sanity in the process?  I had very high expectations for Talking to the Dead, based on a couple of starred reviews in library publications.  While it was good, it isn't in the same league as Now You See Me by S.J. Bolton, The Various Haunts of Men by Susan Hill, or Blue Monday by Nicci French, which would be good read-alikes.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Hiss and Hers by M.C. Beaton

Agatha has fallen hard for her gardener, George Marston.  So much so that she's going around trying to create work for him so that she can be around him more.  When she finds him dead the night of the charity ball in his own compost heap, she discovers that he's been romancing a lot of women in the village, which irks her even more, knowing that he didn't include her.  Agatha is then hired by George's sister to find out who murdered him.  With her employees at her detective agency and friends Charles and Roy, she humorously navigates her way to find George's killer, despite putting herself and her colleagues in danger.  Hiss and Hers is the latest book in the Agatha Raisin series and, despite all the books being very similar, I thoroughly enjoy spending a bit of time in Agatha's hometown of Carsely once a year.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A Wanted Man by Lee Child

Jack Reacher is hitchhiking to Virginia when he's picked up by two men and one woman dressed in similar clothes.  After they go through two police roadblocks and display some unsettling behavior, Reacher realizes that they haven't been truthful with him about who they are and where they've been. The reader knows that Reacher's companions are connected to a man who was murdered in a concrete bunker in rural Nebraska.  The local county sheriff, Victor Goodman, is working alongside FBI agent Julia Sorenson and, as inquiries come in from the CIA, they begin to understand that they are dealing with a possible terrorism situation and that the case might be taken away from them at any moment.  At what point will Reacher and his cohorts collide with the authorities?  The Wanted Man is the latest book in the long-running Jack Reacher series and was an okay read--there's not quite as much action as we're used to in the novels and it feels like a retread of previous plots.  It made me long for the fabulousness of Running Blind and Gone Tomorrow.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Beneath the Shadows by Sara Foster

With her young daughter, Millie, Grace has returned to a small town in Yorkshire where her husband, Adam disappeared a year ago. Grace and Adam had moved to the cottage that Adam's grandparents left to him when they died. Not long after arriving from London, Adam went missing while out with Millie.  Millie, unharmed in her stroller, was left at their front door.  Grace has returned to clean the house of Adam's family's possessions, then rent it out. While there, Grace is constantly haunted by thoughts of Adam and what might have happened to him. Between a creepy house, a neighbor that she doesn't entirely trust, and discovering that Adam might have been keeping things from her, Grace can't wait to leave for good.  But is she in danger herself?  Beneath the Shadows is a page turner in the tradition of Serena Mackesy's Hold My Hand and Sophie Hannah.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Love Anthony by Lisa Genova

Beth and Olivia are two women who live on Nantucket, but don't yet know how their lives will become entwined. Beth is in shock, picking up the pieces of her life after discovering that her husband has been having an affair. Olivia, meanwhile, has moved to Nantucket to try to escape the memories and pain of her young and profoundly autistic son Anthony's death and the resulting breakup of her own marriage. The reader gets to know Anthony through Olivia's journal entries about him and feels her grief in wondering what Anthony's life's purpose was.  Surprisingly, Olivia's answer comes from where she least expects it.  In Love Anthony, Genova has written a novel about a mother's encounter with autism that is honest and heartbreaking. For people who enjoy Elin Hilderbrand and Jennifer Weiner.  It will be published later this month.

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Three-Day Affair by Michael Kardos

Will has been friends with Jeffrey, Nolan and Evan since college and they get together annually for a guys' weekend.  This year, Will is having them over to his house and they plan to catch up and spend time golfing. But things take a terrible turn when Jeffrey kidnaps a teenage girl from a local convenience store and somehow includes both Will and Nolan in his crime.  Being just normal guys, this act puts them totally out of their element and over their heads regarding what to do next.  Wondering if they should let her go, but knowing that doing that will probably ruin their lives has put them in an almost impossible bind.  Over three days, friendships will be tested and lives will definitely be changed....  Several critics have compared the novel to Scott Smith's unforgettable (yes, even after having read it almost twenty years ago) A Simple Plan.  The Three-Day Affair is not as descriptive, but by the end definitely packs the emotional punch of Smith's novel, so it would be a good read-alike.  Also, give it to people who liked Gone Girl and enjoy a story that is more straightforward.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Last to Die by Tess Gerritsen

In Boston, a teenage boy named Teddy Clock is the only survivor when his foster family is murdered in their home. Detective Jane Rizzoli is called to the site. As she delves into Teddy's background, she discovers that he was also the only one left alive two years ago when his family's yacht blew up in St. Thomas. Teddy is not suspected in the crimes, but it gets Jane wondering about Teddy's past. With medical examiner Maura Isles' help, Jane discovers two other kids, Claire Ward and Will Yablonski who have backgrounds similar to Teddy's. Claire and Will live at a school called Evensong, secure and isolated, in Maine. Interspersed throughout the book are scenes set in Italy about a character named Icarus, who an anonymous narrator is trying to capture. What is the connection between Icarus and the teens and how will Jane and Maura keep the kids safe since it seems someone might be after them?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Fine Color of Rust by P.A. O'Reilly

Loretta Boskovic lives in the small outback town of Gunapan with her two children, Melissa and Jake. Her husband, Tony, left years ago. Loretta spends her time working at Neighbourhood House, chatting with her close friend, Norm, trying to save the local school, and thinking about the town's new mechanic, Merv Bull. But when it looks like a luxury resort will be built outside of town, taking recently-discovered local water from the drought-stricken area, Loretta finds herself with a new cause. Filled with Australian slang and touches of humor, The Fine Color of Rust is a real treat. For readers who enjoyed The Beach Street Knitting Society and Yarn Club and books by Katie Fforde.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Stranger in the Room by Amanda Kyle Williams

It's summer in Atlanta and private detective Keye Street and her assistant Neil are investigating why an urn given to a family was filled with cement mix and chicken feed rather than their mother's remains. Keye's cousin, Miki, has also asked Keye for help.  She is afraid that someone is stalking her and wants Keye to find out who it might be.  It appears that the person who has targeted Miki is more disturbed and dangerous than either woman could ever imagine...  Stranger in the Room is the second book in the Keye Street series and reminds me of an edgier Kinsey Millhone, the private investigator created by Sue Grafton.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters

In six months, a giant asteroid will hit earth and destroy everything. People have adapted to the news in different ways: quitting work and fulfilling their dreams, committing suicide, consuming drugs, etc. Detective Henry Palace, amid the chaos, decides to keep doing his job. When he's called out to McDonald's because someone has hung himself in the bathroom, Henry feels it's murder, not a suicide. The victim, Peter Zell, was a loner who worked at an insurance company. Henry is slowly able to piece together Peter's life in the last few months, but he faces lots of distractions. His sister is asking him to find her missing husband, his colleagues react to his seriousness with apathy and ribbing, and he's dealing with a lack of intimacy in his life. Set against the crumbling of society, Winters has written a mystery (first in a projected trilogy) with an interesting premise and likable main character. It reminded me of Body Politic by Paul Johnston.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

Bernadette has slowly become shut off from society while living with her husband, Elgie, who works for Microsoft, and teenage daughter, Bee, in Seattle. Rarely wanting leave her home or talk to anyone, she has hired a virtual assistant, Manjula, who's in India. While she's a good mother to Bee, Bernadette's relationship with Elgie and the unkeep of their home (a former residence for wayward girls) have suffered. Bernadette has also separated herself from the other mothers at Bee's school, whom she has nicknamed the Gnats. When Bee decides that she wants the family to go on a trip to Antarctica as a reward for getting straight A's in school, it might be the event that causes their relationships to crumble. For all of its heavy themes, the book never loses its lightheartedness and is consistently offbeat. It was an enjoyable read.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Roots of the Olive Tree by Courtney Miller Santo

Anna Keller, at 112, is the oldest of five generations of women who live among the olive groves in Kidron, California.  Anna's father, Percy, brought the family to the United States from Brisbane near the turn of the century, along with year-old olive trees he got from Spain.  In fact, some of those original trees are still alive on the family's land and cultivated.  What's amazing about the Keller women is that they are all the firstborn and female.  Their longevity has caught the attention of Amrit Hashmi, a scientist from the University of Pittsburgh who has come to interview the women to try to uncover what makes them so special.  In the novel, Santo explores the lives of all five women: Anna, ninety-year old Bets, Bet's daughter, Callie, Deb, who's in prison, and Deb's daughter, Erin, who has recently come home from Europe.  I thoroughly enjoyed reading about the relationships between the women over the years and the setting of Northern California.  For fans of Jo-Ann Mapson, Judith Ryan Hendricks, and people who enjoy novels about family relationships.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

And When She Was Good by Laura Lippman

Heloise has managed to put an abusive childhood and seedy early adult life behind her by moving to the suburbs with her son, Scott.  She runs an elite escort agency, but has created covers as a lobbyist and owner of a few online businesses. Having a client who's a politician (Paul) and a longtime friend (Tom) who's a cop has also helped her keep her background hidden.  However, things start to unravel--a fellow madam dies, Tom warns her to be extra careful, and one of her girls decides to blackmail her.  Heloise finds herself more uneasy than ever and wonders how she'll be able to extricate herself from this mess and keep her son safe.  Told in chapters alternating between her teen years/recent past and the present, And When She Was Good was a book I had a hard time putting down.  Lippman did a great job creating a character and story that the reader becomes immersed in.

Monday, August 20, 2012

You Are the Love of My Life by Susan Richards Shreve

In 1973, single mother and children's book author Lucy Painter moves with her daughter, Maggie, and son, Felix, to Washington D.C. from New York City. Lucy, however, is keeping two great secrets from her kids: family friend Uncle Reuben is actually their father (but is married to someone else), and the house that the Painters are living in is the one in which Lucy's father committed suicide when she was young. These weigh heavily on Lucy and prevent her from having a social life with the other mothers in their neighborhood of Wichita Hills--especially Queen Bee neighbor Zee Mallory, who has taken Maggie under her wing. As Lucy and Maggie grow apart, will Lucy have to change her ways in order to mend her relationship with Maggie? While I enjoyed the book, it contains a few jarring anachronisms, such as references to Chuck E. Cheese and People Magazine, neither of which existed in 1973.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The St. Zita Society by Ruth Rendell

The servants who live along Hexam Place in London have formed the St. Zita Society, in which they go to the Dugong (a local pub at the end of the block) to talk about various issues they have with their employers and what's going on around the street.  The group is spearheaded by June, who's been the housekeeper to "Princess" Susan Hapsburg for sixty years (the other servants aren't quite as gung-ho about the group).  Henry, driver to Lord Studley, is having affairs with both the Lord's wife and daughter.  June's great-nephew, Rad Sothern, a famous television actor, is being snuck into the home of the Stills by their au pair, Montserrat, to meet up with Lucy, the lady of the house.  Some of the servants have seen this subterfuge and believe that it's Montserrat and Rad that are having the affair.  We also meet Rabia (nanny for the Stills--she revels in the affection of baby Thomas, since her own children died very young) and Dex (a gardener employed by several homeowners-- he communicates with a God named Peach via his cell phone).  When an accident occurs, the result affects the lives of all the characters in ways they can't possibly anticipate.  In The St. Zita Society, Rendell has written a novel that starts slowly but picks up speed as the reader gets familiar with the characters and the inner workings of their relationships.  I also always enjoy her standalone novels because you can never predict how the stories will turn out.

Friday, August 17, 2012

The Absent One by Jussi Adler-Olsen

Detective Carl Morck and his assistant, Assad, decide to explore a case that's over twenty years old. Teenage siblings Lisbet and Soren were beaten to death in the family's summer cottage, but it wasn't until nine years after their murders that Bjarne Thogersen confessed and went to prison.  Carl becomes increasingly skeptical about Bjarne's guilt when he finds that Bjarne has become very wealthy while in prison, despite coming from a modest home.  At boarding school, Bjarne ran with a wild crowd that were suspected at the time of being involved in the murders, but nothing was ever proven until Bjarne's admission. Since then, Bjarne's classmates Ditlev Pram, Torsten Florin, and Ulrik Dybbol, have become famous and wealthy themselves, but an evil streak runs through all three.  The reader knows they were probably involved in the murders, as was Kirsten-Marie Lassen, another group member (and the only female)--now known as Kimmie and living on the streets.  Although Kimmie was in the circle, she wants to exact revenge on the men for their past misdeeds towards her.  The question remains: will Carl and Assad be able to find proof that the friends are guilty?  The Absent One is the second book in the Department Q series and is not as strong as the first.  Because the reader knows the culprit early on, there is not enough story to sustain a four hundred page book.  I will, however, seek out the next book in the series because I like the character of Carl Morck.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Say Nice Things About Detroit by Scott Lasser

Still grieving over the death of his son, lawyer David Halpert decides to move back to Detroit from Denver to help his father as his mother descends into dementia.  His decision coincides with the murder of his high school girlfriend, Natalie, and her African-American half brother, Dirk, who was an FBI agent.  David connects with Natalie's younger sister, Carolyn, who's come back to Detroit because of the tragedy.  They start seeing each other, even though Carolyn is married and lives in Los Angeles.  With the murders unsolved, David and Carolyn have no idea that their connections to Natalie and Dirk might be dangerous.  In the novel, Lasser has written a character-centered story that is quick-moving, yet explores the themes of loss and racism within the backdrop of an evolving Detroit.  I really enjoyed the book and it reminds me of the writing of Stewart O'Nan.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Broken Harbor by Tana French

Detective Mick "Scorcher" Kennedy and his newbie partner, Richie Curran, are assigned the case of the Spain family, who live in a half-empty new housing development that's gone bust in Brianstown, outside of Dublin.  Pat Spain and his two young children, Emma and Jack, were found dead in their home, while Pat's wife, Jenny, seriously injured, was rushed to the hospital.  Kennedy and Richie don't know if Pat or Jenny were responsible or if it was an intruder. The presence of several baby monitors, video cameras, and holes in the walls only adds to the mystery.  Kennedy is thrilled to be the lead investigator on this high profile case, figuring it should be a straightforward investigation--but as it progresses he and Richie find they're left with more questions than answers.  Kennedy's own memories of Brianstown (called Broken Harbor when he vacationed there with his family when he was a child) are traumatic--his mother committed suicide there. Now, his younger sister Dina is continuing on a downward spiral into mental illness, adding to the pressure that Kennedy is putting on himself.  In Broken Harbor, the fourth book in the Dublin Murder Squad series, French has written a book that's even better than her last.  It's a police procedural with psychological depth that keeps the reader guessing until the end.  So so good....

Saturday, July 28, 2012

A Killing in the Hills by Julia Keller

The small West Virginia town of Acker's Gap is shaken when someone opens fire in a local restaurant and kills three men.  Carla, the teenage daughter of Bell Elkins (Raythune County's prosecuting attorney), happens to be a witness to the murders.  Bell worries about Carla's well-being, especially since their relationship has been rocky lately. Bell does have a reason to be concerned-- Carla soon realizes that she saw the killer at a party months ago and that she can probably trace who he is.  She opts not to tell Bell and go it alone, putting herself in over her head.  Meanwhile, Bell, working alongside Sheriff Nick Fogelsong, tries to uncover if the shooting was random or if someone wanted all three victims dead.  Bell also is faced with a trauma from her own childhood when she learns that her sister, who's in prison and has refused contact with Bell for years, is up for parole.  A Killing in the Hills looks to be the beginning of a new mystery series.  I really enjoyed the setting and the characters.  A good readalike would be the Mike Bowditch series by Paul Doiron.  It will be published next month.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Tigers in Red Weather by Liza Klaussmann

Cousins Nick and Helena are looking forward to new beginnings at the end of World War II. Nick's husband, Hughes, is coming home from Europe after fighting in the war, while Helena is moving to Hollywood to marry Avery. The women are very close, having spent every summer together at Tiger House, Nick's family vacation home on Martha's Vineyard. The reader follows the lives of Nick, her daughter Daisy, Hughes, Helena and her son Ed through the sixties. When Daisy and Ed, as young teens, are involved in a tragedy, it exposes both the dysfunctionality and unrest within the family. By mixing the glamour of old money with the disturbing unhappiness that wealth can bring, Klaussmann has written a book that is hard to put down--it's all so juicy. If you like historical fiction and want a book for the beach, this is it. Klaussmann is also the great-great-great granddaughter of Herman Melville.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Blackhouse by Peter May

DS Finlay Macleod has been on leave since his young son died in a hit and run. After a month off, his boss gives him an ultimatum:  either quit the force or go to the Outer Hebrides (specifically the Isle of Lewis, where Fin grew up) to see if a murder there is connected to one at their local patch in Edinburgh. The murder victim, Angel Macritchie, turns out to be someone that Fin knew from his childhood.  Soon, Fin is confronted with all his memories, most of them traumatic, of growing up on the island that he thought he put behind him--he's tried to distance himself from the isle by not coming back for over fifteen years.  Fin finds himself having to face the people and events of his past in order to solve the case.  The Blackhouse is the first book in the Lewis Trilogy and immerses the reader in the isolation and traditions of life on the Isle of Lewis.  I'm very interested to see what May explores in the next book.  For reader who like Ann Cleeves' Jimmy Perez series (set in the Shetland Islands) and scandinavian mysteries.  It will be published in October.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Playdate by Louise Millar

Callie and Suzy live across the street from each other in London and became friends when Callie rushed Suzy to the hospital to have her twin boys. Callie's daughter Rae and Suzy's son Henry, are the same age and attend the same school.  Suzy, an American, is a stay-at-home mom married to Jez, while Callie is single and looking to going back to work, now that Rae (who has a heart condition) is in better health. Nonetheless, Callie worries constantly that just playing like a regular kid might endanger Rae. It's soon evident that Callie's and Suzy's friendship is based more on loneliness than shared interests or affection, and when a new neighbor, Deb, moves next door to Suzy, the cracks begin to appear.  Told through the eyes of all three women, the reader is immersed in their lives--yet they are unreliable narrators who are probably keeping secrets.  In The Playdate, Millar writes a debut where the reader slowly peels the layers to reveal surprising truths.  A novel that would appeal to people who like psychological domestic novels and the writers Sophie Hannah and Nicci French.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Gilded Age by Claire McMillan

Ellie Hart has returned to her hometown of Cleveland after a traumatic divorce in New York and a stint in rehab. Coming home without a husband to her well-heeled circle of friends is not without problems. Never having had a career and wanting to retain her social stature, she would like to marry again but finding love (accompanied by money) is proving difficult. She finds herself attracted to an old friend-- university professor William Selden--but wonders if the wealthy lawyer Randall Leforte (who lacks any class or breeding) might be a better match. However, Ellie does have her oldest friend (unnamed in the book) to lean on. Her friend tells the story of her own marriage and pregnancy, along with her observations of Ellie since she's returned to town. Navigating the minefield of upper-crust Cleveland society might prove to be quite a challenge for Ellie.... In the Gilded Age, McMillan has written a contemporary version of Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth. I throughly enjoyed the peek into Ellie's world, however gossipy, cutthroat, and hurtful it might be.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

A Room Full of Bones by Elly Griffiths

Professor Ruth Galloway, in the midst of planning her daughter Kate's first birthday, is called to the Smith Museum to assist with the opening of a medieval coffin. When she arrives, Ruth is stunned to discover the body of the museum's curator, Neil Topham. The police, including Kate's father DCI Harry Nelson, are called in. Ruth's and Nelson's relationship has been strained since Nelson's wife, Michelle, discovered that Kate was his daughter.  In fact, Nelson has promised Michelle that he won't see either Ruth or Kate anymore. On a professional level, with the autopsy on Topham being inconclusive, Nelson is hesitant to close the case. When Danforth Smith, the owner of the museum dies and threatening letters are found that were sent to both Topham and Smith, the police feel there might be a murderer on the loose. With people angry at Smith for keeping aboriginal skulls, animal rights activists possibly having issues with his horse-training activities, and his own dysfunctional family, there is no shortage of suspects.  A Room Full of Bones is the fourth book in the Ruth Galloway series.  Another enjoyable entry featuring Ruth and her interesting circle of friends.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Next Best Thing by Jennifer Weiner

It's a dream come true for writer Ruth Saunders when the sitcom she created (based on her relationship with her grandmother, Rae) is picked up by a network. Rae raised Ruth from the age of three, after Ruth's parents died in a car accident.  The accident left her with a long scar on the right side of her face and an eye that looks less than perfect, but Ruth has always had her grandmother at her side, believing in Ruth and wanting her to be successful on her own terms. The reality of being at the helm of a TV show sets in quickly for Ruth, though, with compromises in casting and scripting that take the sheen off her sense of accomplishment. She also has to juggle her busy work schedule with Rae's upcoming wedding and her own crush on former boss and mentor, Dave.  Will Ruth be glad in the end that she achieved something incredible or end up regretting that she tried at all? The Next Best Thing has a character at its center that the reader really cares about, cast into the backdrop of Los Angeles sitcomland.  Since Weiner herself created a sitcom for ABC Family, it's interesting to speculate how much of what happens in the novel is true.  Either way, it makes for an enjoyable read.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Summerland by Elin Hilderbrand

The residents of Nantucket are stunned when teenager Penny Alistair crashes her boyfriend Jake's jeep, killing herself and putting her twin brother, Hobby, in a coma. The other two passengers in the car, Jake and Demeter, wearing seat belts, are able to walk away from the accident. What made Penny commit such an impulsive, destructive act? The survivors blame themselves. Zoe, the twins' mother, is devastated. Having raised Penny and Hobby on her own after their father passed away before they were born, she wonders if her leniency towards them is somewhat responsible. She also mourns her affair with Jake's dad, Jordan. Jordan (who still misses Zoe) and his wife, Ava, have moved to Ava's home country of Australia for a year after the accident in order to give Jake a new beginning--their marriage is hanging by a thread after of the death of their newborn son, Ernie, a few years ago. Summerland, told through the eyes of the parents and the children, has all the hallmarks of classic Hilderbrand: immediacy of well-developed characters that you care about, descriptions of island life, and a story that pulls at your heartstrings.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

On the day of Amy and Nick's fifth wedding anniversary, Amy Dunne disappears from their home. Nick calls the police, insisting he had nothing to do with her going missing--but he hasn't been entirely honest with the authorities. Adding to the intrigue is the fact that he also has a disposable phone that he refuses to answer. Entries from Amy's diary for the past six years (recounting her relationship with Nick) are interspersed with Nick's account of the aftermath of Amy's vanishing. The reader learns that their marriage was under some strain after they both lost their jobs and moved from New York City to Nick's small hometown in Missouri. At first, it's obvious that we don't know what was really going on in their marriage, but slowly the reader is privy to their innermost thoughts--be prepared to descend into all the ugliness that the uniting of two people can sometimes bring. Gone Girl, while leisurely-paced in the beginning, is not a novel that one will soon forget.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

Eleven-year-old Julia lives with her parents in southern California when the event occurs that everyone calls “the Slowing.” The earth begins to rotate more slowly, which means that days last longer and the night/day cycle no longer matches clock time. Julia's world is affected immediately when her best friend, Hanna, a Mormon, moves to Utah with her family. With no close friends, she spends her time thinking about her skateboarding neighbor, Seth Moreno. Her parents also try to maintain some sense of normalcy despite the growing uncertainty of what's going to happen. They decide to follow the government's suggestion to follow “clock time” (based on the 24-hour clock) rather than “real time” that now has days lasting more than forty hours. But when animals start dying and tensions erupt between the clock time and real time people, it becomes harder and harder to believe that the situation can ever improve. By setting a traditional tween's growing pains against the backdrop of a global disaster, The Age of Miracles is a very different and compelling coming-of-age novel.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Gone Missing by Linda Castillo

Painters Mill police chief Kate Burkholder is asked to consult with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) on a series of disappearances of Amish teenage girls. The girls had all been rebelling against their strict Amish upbringing during Rumspringa by smoking, drinking, and becoming involved with the opposite sex. Kate grew up Amish, and when a relative of her sister's family goes missing, the case takes a personal turn. Kate knew Sadie (who reminds Kate of herself at that age) and is fearful about her possible fate. With Kate's lover John Tomasetti of BCI working with her, she hopes she'll be able to bring the girls home alive and apprehend the culprit.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Bad Little Falls by Paul Doiron

Game warden Mike Bowditch has been transferred to isolated coastal Maine after not following his superior's orders on a previous case. Mike is alone after breaking up with his girlfriend Sarah and hasn't seen his friends Charley and Ora lately either. He feels even more out of his element when someone starts playing pranks on him--like letting a skunk loose in his trailer. When Mike goes to dinner at Doc Larrabee's, he's recruited to help out at Doc's neighbor's, where a man has become lost in a blizzard. With this act, Mike encounters violence, an attraction to a woman who might be bad news, and his own desire for the truth--which probably outweighs everything else. Bad Little Falls is the third book in the Mike Bowditch series. For readers who enjoy Steve Hamilton and William Kent Krueger. It will be published in August.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Caller by Karin Fossum

In this latest mystery by Karin Fossum, a series of pranks have the residents around and near Bjerkas unsettled. Baby Margrete is found outside in her stroller covered in blood, yet unhurt.  Gunilla Mork has just celebrated her 70th birthday and is stunned to read her obituary in the local newspaper.  Then someone dyes one of a farmer's sheep orange.  The reader knows the culprit is Johnny Beskow, whose only stable relationship is with his home-bound grandfather.  Will police detectives Sejer and Skarre be able to apprehend Johnny before a more serious crime occurs? The Caller is one of the best books in the Inspector Sejer series because it successfully explores interpersonal relationships against a backdrop of foreboding danger.  It will be published in August.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Midwinter Blood by Mons Kallentoft

Police Inspector Malin Fors is thirty-three and lives with her teenage daughter, Tove, in Linkoping. She and her partner Zeke Martinsson are called out to a gruesome murder scene, where a naked overweight man is hanging from a tree. The victim is revealed to be a man named Bengt Andersson, a loner who was teased by local teenagers and ignored by pretty much everyone else. Malin delves into Bengt's life and finds a traumatic childhood and a connection to a more recent crime. While trying to uncover the truth in the investigation, Malin must also deal with her daughter's raging hormones, a purely physical relationship with a local reporter, and yearnings for her ex-husband, Janne. Midwinter Blood is the first book in the Malin Fors series and would appeal to people who like Helene Tursten and Yrsa Sigurdardottir.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Reckoning by Jane Casey

DC Maeve Kerrigan isn't thrilled with the addition to the team, DI Josh Derwent. She finds him aggressive and hard to read. Soon, however, they're working together on the murders of three convicted pedophiles. When Maeve rescues a fourth victim, the investigation leads them to a suspect that the police know very well and a missing teenager, taking the case in a completely different direction. In The Reckoning, Maeve works hard to prove that she's just as capable as the men on her team and in the end her gender is her biggest asset. This second book in the Maeve Kerrigan series is similar to the mysteries of Barry Maitland and Elena Forbes.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Don't Ever Get Old by Daniel Friedman

Eighty-seven-year-old Buck Schatz, a retired cop, passes his time watching television and smoking Lucky Strikes, while living with his wife of more than sixty years, Rose.  When an old acquaintance of Buck's reveals on his death bed that SS guard Heinrich Ziegler, whom they both encountered during World War II, escaped with loads of gold, Buck is stunned. Ziegler almost beat Buck to death during the war and he, like everyone else, believed that Ziegler died at the end of the conflict. Nursing some revenge, Buck decides to look for Ziegler and enlists his twenty-something grandson, "Tequila," to help. Buck soon realizes that he's not the only one after the treasure and, as the body count mounts, he and Tequila find themselves deeper into the mess. Don't Ever Get Old is an entertaining debut mystery with lots of personality.  The relationship of Buck and Tequila, for me, was reminiscent of Janet Evanovich's pairing of Stephanie Plum and Lula, although not so over the top.  I look forward to another outing with Buck.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Drowned by Therese Bohman

Marina is spending part of the summer with her older sister, Stella, and her boyfriend, Gabriel (a novelist), at a home that belonged to Gabriel's grandparents in Skane.  Marina is attracted to Gabriel despite his being in a relationship with Stella. Add to this the fact that Stella's job working as a horticulturist keeps her very busy, while Gabriel is at home writing (and alone with Marina) and you have a situation that can only end badly. Things get even more complicated when Marina suspects that Gabriel's occasional uncontrollable anger causes him to hurt Stella.  Is Marina more concerned with herself and her own twisted happiness or will she help her sister instead?  That is the question.  A disturbing read.