Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Lost Art of Mixing by Erica Bauermeister

The characters of Bauermeister's first novel, The School of Essential Ingredients return in The Lost Art of Mixing.  Chef and restaurant owner Lillian discovers she's having a baby and wonders if widower Tom will be able to move forward with their relationship. Young sous chef Chloe's friendship with her elderly roommate Isabelle deepens as Isabelle descends into Alzheimer's.  Chloe also finds herself attracted to restaurant dishwasher, Finnegan.  The reader also gets to know Lillian's accountant Al and his wife, Louise, who are in a marriage that's lasted a quarter century but are both unhappy.  Lastly, there's Isabelle's physician daughter, Abby, who struggles in her relationship with her mother because of their differences.  Focusing more on characters' thoughts and emotions rather than plot, The Lost Art of Mixing is an enjoyable journey through people's lives.  For readers who enjoy Judith Ryan Hendricks and Jo-Ann Mapson.

Suspect by Robert Crais

After almost being killed in a shootout, L.A. cop Scott James is haunted by his partner's death, struggling to overcome his injuries, and determined to find out who was responsible.
Focused on still working for the LAPD, he decides to work as a K-9 officer, but things aren't going too well until he meets Maggie, a dog who suffers from PTSD from her time in Afghanistan, where her handler was killed. Scott feels a closeness with Maggie, since she limps like he does and he is driven to help her succeed as a K-9 dog.  Maggie also helps Scott heal and is indispensable in aiding him in his quest to find the killers. In Suspect, Crais has created another absorbing page turner.  He is able to combine interesting characters in Scott and Maggie (yes, we do get her point of view) with a nail-bitter of a story.  One of his best...

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Burning Air by Erin Kelly

The MacBrides are gathering at Far Barn, the family's second home in Devon, to scatter the ashes of matriarch Lydia, who died of cancer. Attending are Lydia's husband, Rowan, and his three children--Sophie, Tara, and Felix, who arrive with their families.  Everyone is worried about Sophie, who suffered postpartum depression when she had her last child.  When Felix's girlfriend, Kerry, offers to watch baby Edie so Sophie can go with the family to a local celebration in town, all encourage her to accept Kerry's offer.  Sophie reluctantly agrees, but is beside herself with worry and panic when she gets back to the house and finds both Kerry and Edie gone.  What the MacBrides don't know (but the reader does) is that someone is holding them responsible for ruining their childhood and is finally ready to exact revenge.  Told through the eyes of four of the people present and taking place in both the past and present, Kelly has written a book that's hard to put down.  I couldn't wait to see what secrets would be uncovered and how the story would be resolved. After reading this third novel by Kelly, I have to move her way up on my list of "must read" authors for psychological fiction.  Similar to Ruth Rendell's psychological novels, Sophie Hannah, The Playdate by Louise Millar, and Beneath the Shadows by Sara Foster. The novel will be published next month.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Ashenden by Elizabeth Wilhide

Based on the real home Basildon Park, Ashenden recounts the story of an English country house from 1775 to the present. The reader initially meets the architect James Woods and his family, and then the first owners of the home (along with their housekeeper).  Through the years, the inhabitants' fortunes rise and fall, affecting both the condition of the house and who lives in it.  During World War I, we see it turned into a convalescent home for soldiers, while during World War II, it houses prisoners of war.  The current owners are brother and sister, Charlie and Ros, who inherit Ashenden from their uncle and aunt.  Charlie desires to sell, while Ros wants to hang onto the house. Overall, the estate is really the main character, although the inhabitants over the years and people's connections to the home are intriguing.  An enjoyable novel for readers who like the television show Downton Abbey and the novel The American Heiress.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Cover of Snow by Jenny Milchman

Nora is stunned to wake up one morning and discover that her husband, Brendan, has committed suicide in their home.  Brendan was a police officer in their small town of Wedeskyull, which is also where he grew up. Not only can Nora not believe that Brendan took his own life, she then uncovers that he drugged her the night he killed himself, using a prescription he filled a week before he died. Wondering what Brendan was keeping from her, Nora decides to delve into events from his past, especially his younger brother's death when they were children.  It also appears that there are people in Wedeskyull who want Nora to stop asking questions...  What do they have to hide?

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Doll by Taylor Stevens

When Munroe is taken away by an ambulance after crashing her motorcycle outside Bradford's office, he immediately becomes uneasy.  Bradford's worst fears are confirmed when Munroe's wallet is found at a local emergency room, but she's nowhere to be found. Certain that she's been kidnapped, Bradford and his colleagues try to determine where she's gone. The people that have taken Munroe have severely injured her best friend, Logan, in order to get Munroe to agree to their demand:  deliver famous actress Neeva Eckridge (already in the captors' custody) to a man who wants to keep her as his personal prisoner.  Munroe agrees to complete the task, but only to protect Logan and others close to her.  Can Munroe be comfortable sacrificing Neeva and following the rules set out for her?  In this third novel in the Munroe series, Stevens constructs the novel differently than the first two, having Bradford and his team be a big part of the action and having Munroe join the story later. It works well and gives the series a welcome freshness.  The Doll will be published in June.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Watching the Dark by Peter Robinson

DCI Alan Banks is the lead detective on the murder case of fellow officer, DI Bill Quinn. Quinn was killed by an arrow that pierced his heart while he was a resident at St. Peter's, a place for police officers to convalesce. While going through Quinn's room at St. Peter's, Banks finds some photos of Quinn with a young woman in a compromising position. Quinn had recently become a widower, but the photos are not that new and Quinn looks like he possibly could have been drugged. Banks wonders if they have anything to do with his death. Banks and his team delve into Quinn's old cases, looking for anyone that might be holding a grudge. What they find is the unsolved disappearance of a young woman named Rachel Hewitt, who disappeared in Tallinn, Estonia six years ago while on a girl's weekend with friends. Her parents believe she's still alive--and not finding Rachel was considered Quinn's biggest disappointment. What, if anything, could Rachel or the photos have to do with Quinn's murder? Watching the Dark is the latest book in the Inspector Banks series. Unfortunately, the mystery is not very complex and there's not anything else in the book to compensate for that fact. Let's hope the next book is up to the great standards of In a Dry Season or Strange Affair.

Monday, January 7, 2013

My Favorite Books of 2012

A thriller, two psychological mysteries, and a couple of debut novels highlight the list of the books I most enjoyed in 2012.

In alphabetical order by author:

Trust Your Eyes by Linwood Barclay

One of Barclay's best--interesting characters and a plot that keeps the reader guessing until the end.

Broken Harbor by Tana French

Even though the book is over 450 pages, nothing is extraneous.  A pitch-perfect psychological mystery.

The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino

This first book in the Galileo series was published in 2011, but I didn't read it until 2012 (probably because I was put off by the Japanese setting).  I'm so glad I gave it a try.  A wonderful puzzle with a wallop of an ending.

Tigers in Red Weather by Liza Klaussmann

I don't read a lot of historical fiction, but I really loved this one. Family relationships, old wealth and jealousy combine to form a novel that's hard to put down.

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

A debut novel with a fascinating premise: what would happen if the earth started to rotate more slowly?  Having read this book almost a year ago, I still vividly remember the journey I took with teenage Julia when this event happened in her life.