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.