Monday, August 31, 2009
TITLE: DEAD FALL
AUTHOR: JOAN LOCK
Details: no. 5 Detective Inspector Best, Victorian Mystery
While Detective Inspector Best and his wife Helen are enjoying a play, a real murder takes place on stage. But, although or maybe because both the stage and the audience are packed, nobody has seen who pulled the trigger.
So, Best and his team throw themselves into the world that is the Victorian theatre, only to find themselves faces with quite a few vague motives, and before long, a second murder.
And when at last they do discover who the murderer is and his motive, they still face a mad dash trying to prevent another murder.
This wasn't a bad mystery and the Victorian setting was quite interesting, but I didn't like how the story would shift from Best interviewing someone to him discussing the same with his wife without a proper break or shift in the story. That in fact confused me several times.
This was of course the first book I read in this series, but I don't think that is what caused my problem with the book.
I won't be hurrying out to find more books in this series, although I probably would read another one should it end up in my hands.
Sunday, August 30, 2009
TITLE: THE ANGEL'S GAME
AUTHOR: CARLOS RUIZ ZAFON
Details: no. 2 Barcelona Trilogy
David Martin has had a dismal childhood, during which only his love of books and reading keeps him going, a love encouraged and sustained by the proprietors of Sempere & Sons bookshop.
As a young man he makes a living writing Gothic novels filled with violence and darkness about Barcelona's underworld. With the money he is making he is renting an abandoned and supposedly cursed mansion. The house he has felt drawn to since he was a boy. both repels and attracts him.
When he receives an offer to write a book unlike any ever written before, he accepts the offer, the rewards being too good to refuse.
Soon, however, it becomes clear that the book he has been commissioned to write is somehow connected to his house and the dark secrets it contains.
As David tries to uncover the secrets of the past it becomes clear that he has entered the dark underworld he used to write about. A place of violence, mystery and death. A place that will cost him almost everything he holds dear. A place he may not be able to escape, ever.
This book was a lot darker than it's prequel, The Shadow of the Wind, and was maybe a bit too dark for me. I never really felt any sympathy for or connection with David Martin.
However, Zafon is a remarkable writer, without any doubt. He has a wonderful way with words and ideas, and his love of books always shines through his stories.
What I wouldn't give to be able to visit the Cemetery of Forgotten Books.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
AUTHOR: LEE CHILD
Details: no. 7 Jack Reacher Thriller / Large Print
When this book starts, with Reacher killing a cop, it seems that he has lost his plot and his mind at last. Of course he hasn't. There is a reason for his actions, a very personal one, which is revealed during the course of the story. A reason that will lead to a lot more violence and several casualties.
As he teams up with three FBI agents on an off-the-books mission to rescue a colleague, Reacher's motives are quite the same as theirs.
I don't want to say anything else about the story because I don't want to give anything away. Suffice to say that there's lots of action, maybe a bit too much violence for my liking, and a sexual relationship that felt a bit forced into the story.
Still it is hard to find fault with a book that is this hard to put down, with a hero as fascinating as Reacher. And it will probably be even harder to not rush out and order the next instalment in.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
TITLE: BOOKED FOR MURDER
AUTHOR: V.L. McDERMID
Details: No. 5 Lindsay Gordon Mystery
Audio: 7 C.D's / 8 hours & 5 minutes
Narrator: Vari Sylvester
When popular author of young adult novels, Penny Varnavides, is found that, it's at first assumed the result of a freak accident with an exploding beer bottle. When it turns out that the way she died is the same as the murder method described in her latest, as yet unpublished, book, the police start an investigation, focusing their attention on Penny's ex-partner, Meredith.
Both Penny and Meredith are friends of Lindsay's, but still she only reluctantly leaves California for London to start her own investigation and prove Meredith innocent.
For the longest time though, there doesn't appear to be anyone else with a motive for killing Penny. And when Lindsay does find a motive, it almost ends up killing her.
This was a good mystery. I had the killer figured fairly early on, but not the motive.
The story lend itself very well to the audio format, and the narrator was good.
I may just get back to listening to audio books on a more regular basis.
Sunday, August 23, 2009
TITLE: QUEEN OF THE BIG TIME
AUTHOR: ADRIANA TRIGIANI
When Nella Castelluca is growing up in Roseto, Pennsylvania in the 1920,s, she has big plans for herself. She wants to continue her education and become a teacher, and move away from her parent's family farm into town. When she meets Renato Lonzara she is sure she's found the love of her life, and the future looks bright.
But then fate and life throw a spanner in the works and Nella has to reassess her life and her ambitions, learning some valuable lessons along the way.
This is a story about love and loss, family and duty, and about the importance of living in the moment rather than lingering on memories or waiting for a future that may never come.
Like all Trigiani's books this was a good, cozy and easy read. I never got to feel really close to Nella though, or emotionally involved in her life.
"All faith is a belief that life is meant to be, and beyond it we never die."
TITLE: GONE TO GROUND
AUTHOR: JOHN HARVEY
Details: No. 1 Will Grayson & Helen Walker Mystery
When Stephen Bryon is found violently beaten to death in his bathroom, police detectives Will Grayson and Helen Walker at first think that it may have been the consequence of an ill judged gay sexual encounter. Soon however, they are looking at other angles. Does Stephen's ex-boyfriend have anything to do with the murder? Is it somehow related to the homophobic attacks plaguing the East Midlands? Or does the reason for his murder lie in the biography he wanted to write about Stella Leonard, an actress who was famous in the fifties? Leonard's life and death were a mystery and her family doesn't want anyone digging into her past.
As the police investigation slowly moves on, Stephan's sister, Lesley, takes a close look at Stella Leonard and makes some shocking discoveries of her own.
Although this was a well written and plausible story, I also found it a bit slow, just plodding along. it never gripped me with the urgent need to read on. However, I liked it enough to bring the second one in the series home from the library should I find it there.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
TITLE: ROADSIDE CROSSES
AUTHOR: JEFFREY DEAVER
Details: no. 2 Kathryn Dance Thriller
Jeffrey Deaver writes such great thrillers. Every time you think you know what's going on, he throws in another twist and it's almost like you're back to square one, not knowing what's going on at all.
When a young girls is found locked into the boot of her car and left to drown at the seaside, Kathryn and her team trace the attempted murder back to a post in a famous blog, reporting about a car crash in which two teenage girls were killed. On the back of this blog report, a vicious case of cyber bullying commences, aimed at the boy who was driving the car.
Now, with roadside crosses popping up, commemorating deaths yet to occur, and those being attacked being those who where the most vicious bullies, the boy driver is the obvious suspect. The boy subsequently disappears, while the attacks on those who comment on the blog continue. The investigators need to both find the boy, and identify and protect potential victims. Kathryn and her team have to learn about computers, blogs and gaming, and those whose lives revolve around this technology.
With Kathryn also facing a crisis in her family and a possible romantic interest, this book reads like a roller coaster ride. It is also a cautionary tale, warning us against getting too involved in the cyber world.
Monday, August 17, 2009
AUTHOR: COLUM McCANN
Last February I was fortunate enough to see Colum McCann do a reading in the Central Library in Cavan (click here for a description of the evening), and found myself falling in love with his use of language and the passion with which he spoke about his writing and his books. It is very much to my shame that it took me this long to pick up one of his books and read it. However, it is a case of better late than never, and I found myself reading a fascinating, if not easy to read book.
It is the fictionalized story of Rudolf Nureyev's life, from his days as a boy in the Soviet Union, through his years in the west, to a short reunion with his family after more than half a life time of exile.
The picture painted is not one of a nice person. The Rudi emerging from these pages is someone who expected to be allowed and forgiven anything because of his talent, and found this to be, largely, true. There are glimpses of a nicer, more human, less selfish person, but overall it was like reading about a spoiled and over-indulged child who was never taught about boundaries and refused to accept that any existed for him.
The story is told through the eyes and words of various people in Nureyev's life, in several individual voices and writing styles. This turned it into one of the harder to read books this year, but also added greatly to making this book as fascinating as it was.
Saturday, August 15, 2009
TITLE: DIE FOR ME
AUTHOR: KAREN ROSE
Details: no. 1 Daniel Vartanian Thriller
It all begins with the discovery of a grave in a field. Detective Vito Ciccotelli and his partner are called out and find themselves facing the remains of someone who died of horrific injuries. Before the day is over, 16 graves will have been found in that field, with the assistance of archeologist Sophie Johannson, but only nine graves are occupied.
Elsewhere, FBI agent Daniel Vatranian starts the search for his missing parents from whom he has been estranged for years.
And all the while, someone is designing a computer game with a medieval setting, wanting his graphics of torture and death as well as the accompanying sounds to be as realistic as can be.
When all of these components come together, a terrifying race against time is on to safe one of them from a horrific death.
This was a great thriller. Horrifying at times, but also containing story lines that provide the reader with a chance to take a breather and get to really know the characters.
The dialogue was good, the characters well drawn and interesting and the pages turned themselves.
This was a very clever book and I'm delighted I at last brought a Karen Rose book home with me, and even more delighted there are so many other titles by her for me to look forward to.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
TITLE: THE HELP
AUTHOR: KATHRYN STOCKETT
This was one very well written book, with a fascinating and thought-provoking story. For me it was also a very hard book to read.
The story is set in Jackson, Mississippi in the early 1960's. The lines of segregation are strictly drown through the community and equally strictly enforced. But with the civil rights moving gathering pace, tensions are rising.
In this climate we meet Aibileen, a black maid raising her 17th white child. Ever since her son died she has been finding it harder to just accept life the way it is.
Her best friend Minny has been in trouble with her employers all her working life because of her smart mouth, but has now managed to make an enemy out of the most influential woman in town.
Miss Skeeter is a young white woman. When she returns from college, she finds that Constantine, the maid who raised her and whom she loves, is gone. But no one will tell her where to or why.
Skeeter decides she wants to write about the lives of the black servants and their relationships with their white employers. Aibileen and Minny are her first volunteers, but more follow. With every single woman very aware of the fact that if they are found out the very least they will lose is their jobs.
I found it very hard to believe that this story was taking place during the year I was born. I had to keep on reminding myself that this was 45 years ago and not a century or more. The whole situation is so far removed from the world I grew up in, and the values I was taught that it might as well have been a different planet. Of course I was aware of the segregation issue in the US around this time. But somehow it was never real for me, until I read this book. And that in itself shows what a remarkable book this is.
Monday, August 10, 2009
TITLE: PROMISES IN DEATH
AUTHOR: J.D. ROBB
Details: no. 28 Eve Dallas & Roarke Mystery
The last book I started during the Read-a-Thon, I didn't get to finish it within the allotted time. But, it was good enough to draw me back as soon as I got out of bed this morning.
Every murder investigation is personal to Eve. When the victim is a fellow cop it becomes even more so. And Amarylis Coltrane was also in a relationship with Morris, a close colleague and friend of Eve's.
But, as Eve starts to investigate, she runs into some potentially very disturbing facts. Amarylis used to be involved with Alex Ricker, the son of a criminal Eve put away for life a few years ago. Was she on the take? Or was she killed by one of her immediate colleagues, and if so, why?
As Eve gets threatened personally it only serves to make her more determined to uncover the solution out of a murky mess of twisted relationships and betrayal.
The sexy part in these books seems to be getting a bit less as the series goes on, and I wouldn't mind if that wasn't the case. On the other hand, the mysteries are getting better, so maybe it's not a bad trade off.
TITLE: INDIGO SLAM
AUTHOR: ROBERT CRAIS
Details: no. 7 Elvis Cole Mystery
I managed to read all of this book during the Read-a-Thon, and it was a quick, fast and furious read.
When three kids walk into Cole's office and Teri, the eldest at 15, announces that they want to hire him to find their father who has been gone for 11 days, his first instinct is to refuse. However, unable to leave to kids to their own devices, he soon finds himself looking for the man after all.
But nothing is as it seems. The family goes by an assumed name, and rather than a printer, the father turns out to be a master counterfeiter. Both the Russian mob and U.S. Federal Marshalls are looking for the man, and Cole soon finds himself in the middle, dodging bullets.
At the same time, the ex-husband of Cole's girlfriend is doing what he can to keep Cole and Lucy apart.
Never a dull moment in Cole's life, and never one for the reader either.
TITLE: HOUNDED TO DEATH
AUTHOR: RITA MAE BROWN
Details: no. 7 Outfoxed series
This was the book I was reading when this weekends Mystery Read-a-Thon started.
For me it was the first book in this series. For some reason books by Rita Mae Brown are hard to find in Ireland. When I saw this book in Amsterdam last May and remembered how much I had enjoyed the few "Sneaky Pie Brown" books I read years ago, I just couldn't resist.
And, I don't regret buying and reading the book at all. I do think though that I might have enjoyed the read more if I had read the previous books.
The main character in this series and book is "Sister" Jane Arnold, master of the hunt in Virginia. She has travelled to Kentucky for a dog show when one of the contestants is murdered. The victim was universally despised, and his murder goes unmourned.
That is different when a few weeks later, back in Virginia, a very popular vet is found dead. The signs appear to indicate suicide, but Sister is sure the vet was murdered and intents to investigate the matter.
Then a wealthy pet food manufacturer disappears and Sister is convinced that the three cases are somehow connected. Getting to the bottom of things means that Sister will have to face some ugly truths about the victims and about other people she thought she knew and liked.
I liked this mystery and the characters in it, and should I find other books in this series, I will bring them home with me to read.
Some people might not like the way Brown puts her political views into this story, but it doesn't bother me at all, and it doesn't happen too often.
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
TITLE: THE NEIGHBOUR
AUTHOR: LISA GARDNER
Details: Stand-alone thriller
CAREFUL, THIS REVIEW MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS!!!
In many ways this is a very chilling novel. No in the least because by the end, not all crimes go punished.
Detective Sergeant D.D. Warren is called to a house in Boston from which a young wife and mother has gone missing. On the surface it looks like D.D. is dealing with a tragic case involving a normal and picture perfect family. However, from the start things don't feel right to D.D. The husband is not reacting to the situation in any of the expected ways, and the family didn't have any close relationships without their house. Almost from the word go, the husband is the prime suspect.
However, he's not the only one; There is the sexual offender who happens to live on the same street, the thirteen year old student with a crush on the young and beautiful teacher as well as the missing woman's father, with whom she hasn't been in contact for five years. While the media circus grows every more intrusive, the investigation only grows murkier.
This is not a thriller for the faint hearted. And if you have an issue with reading about child abuse, or like your endings to be conclusive and black and white, this is not the book for you.
Also, although there are lots of questions to be answered and mysteries to be solved in this book, I never for one moment thought that the missing woman was dead because of the way in which the book was written.
Therefore, I'd call this a very good but not a perfect thriller.
Monday, August 3, 2009
TITLE: 16 LIGHTHOUSE ROAD
AUTHOR: DEBBIE MACOMBER
Details: no. 1 Cedar Cove Series
Now this was a comfort read if ever I read one. A very fast read, and a story filled with characters I was delighted to meet and look forward catching up with again in the not to distant future.
Judge Olivia Lockheart makes a very controversial decision when she refuses to grant Cecilia and Ian Randal a divorce. They have been married for less than a year, and a devastating loss is tearing them apart, but Olivia is determined to make them reconsider.
At the same time, Olivia's own life is anything but tranquil. She is really attracted to Jack Griffin, who has moved to Cedar Cove three months earlier to run the local paper, but comes with a past and issues he is reluctant to share.
Olivia's daughter, Justine, is considering marriage with an unsuitable and much older man, when a man she knew in high school throws her into emotional confusion.
And Olivia's best friend, Grace Sherman suddenly finds herself abandoned by her husband, who disappears without any warning or explanation.
A lot more happens, and although some issues are resolved, as least as many are left open for future books. Books I'm looking forward to.
Saturday, August 1, 2009
TITLE: THE MAP THIEF
AUTHOR: HEATHER TERRELL
Details: no. 2 Mara Coyne Mystery
Mara Coyne is an attorney who has established a company that specializes in recovering stolen works of art and returning them to their rightful owners. She is hired by Richard Tobias, a powerful man in Republican political circles, to recover an ancient Chinese map of the world which has been stolen from an archaeological dig Tobias is sponsoring in China.
As Mara travels to China to start her investigation it becomes clear from early on that she has not been given full information. Mara will travel from China to Italy and Portugal hunting for the map and uncovering it's century old secrets.
Two separate, yet connected, story lines weave through this book as we follow two young map makers, one from china and one from Portugal, on their sea voyages around the world in the 15th century, providing an explanation as to the origin of the map.
This was a very interesting read, and a plausible enough story to make me think: "what if..."
But, as well as this book works on a historical level, I was left disappointed by the lack of character development. Non of the characters in this book became real for me. They always stayed paper thin, leaving me rather indifferent as to their fate.
Still, I enjoyed this read enough to want to read the next one when it comes out in March next year. Especially because that book will deal with Ireland and The Book of Kells.
It is funny though how this is the second book I read in recent weeks dealing with early sea voyages and China, as well as the second mystery involving old maps. I've commented on it before, but I can't help noticing how the subject matters of my book seem to be attracting each other without any planning on my part.