Monday, January 30, 2012

The Inspector and Silence by Hakan Nesser

Chief Inspector Van Veeteren is asked to help out in the town of Sorbinowo while their chief of police is on vacation. Sergeant Kluuge has called Van Veeteren because he's received calls that a girl has disappeared at the Pure Life Camp. Pure Life is a religious sect headed by Oscar Yellinek and the camp has about twelve girls staying there over the summer. Van Veeteren, Kluuge, and their colleagues, however, are extremely frustrated because Yellinek and his followers, all female, are very tight-lipped about everything. When the body of a young girl is found murdered, the police wonder how they will unravel what exactly happened. The Inspector and Silence is the latest book to be published in the Van Veeteren series and, frankly, I enjoyed the previous ones a bit more.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Poison Flower by Thomas Perry

James Shelby has been wrongly convicted of murdering his wife, Susan, so his sister hires Jane Whitefield to help him escape the courthouse. While Jim gets away, Jane is nabbed by some men who work for the real killer, who shoot her in the leg. Their aim is to get Jane to tell them where Jim is--and they will torture her to find out. When they discover that Jane has helped lots of people disappear over the years and that some people will pay handsomely to know where Jane hid them, they get even more excited. After hearing this news, Jane knows she has to find a way to escape, even though the odds are stacked against her. In this seventh novel in the Jane Whitefield series, Perry has written a novel filled with non-stop action. It's amazing to me that Perry is not as well-known as other authors who write this type of book: Lee Child, Robert Crais, and Michael Connelly. It will be published in March.

Monday, January 23, 2012

The House at Sea's End by Elly Griffiths

In Broughton Sea's End, the bones of six men, their arms bound with rope, are found at a cliff fall. Forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway assists DCI Harry Nelson by revealing that the skeletons are from seventy years ago, probably during World War II. In his inquiries, Nelson ascertains that Broughton Sea's End had a Home Guard during the war, made up of local residents charged with protecting the coast from German invaders. When one of the Home Guard members who's still alive tells Nelson that he could never reveal if the Home Guard saw any action because they took a blood oath, Nelson becomes ever more sure that something tragic happened during the war, leaving six people dead. On a personal level, Ruth is learning to balance motherhood with her job and fighting her love for Nelson (the father of her baby, Kate) because he's still happily married to his wife, Michelle. This third book in the Galloway/Nelson series is as good as the first two. I love the characters and the setting and can't wait for the next one. In my post for The Crossing Places, I gave several readalikes. I now would also add Deborah Crombie and Louise Penny to that list.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Expats by Chris Pavone

American Kate Moore decides to leave the CIA when her husband, Dexter, gets a job in Luxembourg. Since the birth of her two young sons, Kate has taken a safe office job rather than being out in the field. Kate, however, has kept it a secret from Dexter that she ever worked for the CIA in the first place. Dexter's choice of employment is also a bit of a mystery. He travels a lot and tells her that he's doing electronic security for a bank. However, Kate finds it suspicious that she's never met anyone who works with Dexter and that she never sees any paystubs. Kate and Dexter become friends with another expat couple from the States, Julia and Bill. Kate slowly realizes that they aren't who they say they are, either. Kate begins to delve into all three lives to try and figure out what's going on. She also wonders if someone is watching her too. The Expats is an engaging spy thriller that has broad appeal because of its female main character, setting, and a storyline that leaves politics on the sidelines, which is a plus for me. It will be published in March.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Odds by Stewart O'Nan

Art and Marion Fowler have been married for thirty years. On Valentine's Day weekend, broke, they decide to make a return trip to Niagara Falls, where they honeymooned, to try and win a large amount of money at the casinos before they divorce. Told through the eyes of both Art and Marion, the reader sees how they feel about each other, their marriage, and the mistakes they made along the way. Complicating matters is the fact that Art would like to remain married, while Marion is looking forward to her freedom. Could a windfall change the situation? In The Odds, O'Nan vividly recreates the setting of Niagara Falls and the emotions of a couple who know each other so well. It's very similar to O'Nan's previous short novel, Last Night at the Lobster.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The House at Tyneford by Natasha Solomons

In 1938, nineteen-year-old Elise Landau leaves her artistic family in Vienna to work as a maid at Tyneford in England. Her family believes it's the best place for her--it's getting harder for Jews to escape Nazi Austria. Elise's sister, Margot, has fled to California with her husband, Robert. Elise worries constantly about her her parents, Anna (a famous singer) and Julian (a novelist) because they haven't been able to leave Vienna yet. While at Tyneford, Elise practices her English and befriends Kit, the son of Tyneford's widowed owner, Daniel Rivers. She also struggles with her place in the household, since her family was fairly well off in Austria and she doesn't fit well with the servants. In The House at Tyneford, Solomons vividly recreates life at an English country house during World War II and Elise's life in her new country. For people who enjoyed The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and the current miniseries on PBS Downton Abbey.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Defending Jacob by William Landay

District Attorney Andy Barber's life is shattered when his teenage son, Jacob, is arrested for the murder of classmate Ben Rifkin. A single bloody fingerprint of Jacob's is found on Ben's sweatshirt, and this evidence, combined with the fact that Ben bullied Jacob (which might serve as a motive for killing him) leads to Jacob facing trial. The lives of Andy and his wife Laurie slowly unravel as they participate in the trial and wonder if their son could be capable of such violence. Andy's secret that both his father and grandfather were murderers casts an even bigger pall over the family. As more secrets come to the surface, one wonders if Jacob will be found not guilty and if that could allow the family to heal. The novel will be published later this month.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

Disgraced journalist Mikael Blomkvist decides to take a leave of absence from his magazine, Millennium, to work for wealthy industrialist Henrik Vanger for one year. Vanger hires Blomkvist to secretly look into the disappearance of his niece, Harriet, who went missing almost forty years ago on Hedeby Island, which is almost completely owned by the Vanger family. Blomkvist's cover story is that he is working on a book about the history of the Vanger family. While on Hedeby, Blomkvist becomes immersed in the dysfunction of the family and crosses paths with female tattooed hacker, Lisbeth Salander. Slowly, Blomkvist penetrates Salander's tough exterior and they begin to work the case together. With Salander's help, Blomkvist uncovers clues that just might lead them to find out what happened to Harriet all those years ago. Yes, considering my reading tastes, it's surprising that I haven't read this book years earlier. I really enjoyed it, although it's definitely leisurely-paced at times. The mystery of Harriet's whereabouts, dead or alive, I found completely absorbing. That aspect of the book reminded me a lot of books by Henning Mankell. I found the story of Millennium and Blomkvist's career less compelling. Surprisingly, to me, Salander did not dominate the book as I thought she would. I did really like it, though, and look forward to reading the other two books in the series. Two other observations: the original Swedish title, Men Who Hate Women, is really more appropriate for the book and it's obvious that Larsson has a fondness for mysteries because of the titles he name-drops throughout the novel. Another read-alike for Stieg Larsson would be Jo Nesbo.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Taken by Robert Crais

Nita Morales hires private detective Elvis Cole to find her daughter, Krista, who has disappeared with her boyfriend, Jack Berman. Elvis slowly discovers that they have been taken by "bajadores," people who kidnap illegal immigrants that have just arrived in the United States. They then try to get a ransom from their victims' families back home. When the families can no longer pay, the immigrants are killed. After Elvis himself is taken prisoner, it's up to his partner, Joe Pike, to rescue all three of them. Taken is the latest book in the Elvis Cole/Joe Pike series and will be published later this month.

Monday, January 2, 2012

My Favorite Books of 2011

Two thrillers, a couple of mysteries, and a novel about a woman reflecting on her life make up my favorite reads of 2011. My list reflects that I read more mysteries and thrillers than any other genre this past year.

In alphabetical order by author:

Now You See Me by S.J. Bolton

What a series debut! An in-depth police procedural with lots of twists and turns.

Back of Beyond by C.J. Box

The setting of Yellowstone and characters you care about make the book unputdownable.

Trespasser by Paul Doiron

The combination of an interesting puzzle, a main character who is growing with each book, and a well-developed sense of place make this second book of the series a favorite.

Emily, Alone by Stewart O'Nan

A realistic, quiet novel encompassing the thoughts and feelings of a Pittsburgh widow.

The Informationist by Taylor Stevens

An exotic locale with a tough-as-nails heroine make this my favorite thriller of last year.