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Posts Tagged ‘missing woman’

KNIFE CREEK by Paul Doiron: Book Review

Did you know that there’s really an invasion of feral hogs coming up the east coast from the south?  It has reached the woods of northern Maine, beginning to impact the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and most particularly game warden Mike Bowditch.

Mike and his girlfriend Stacey, a biologist for the same state agency, are in the woods hoping to kill a sow and her piglets.  Feral hogs are huge, often weighing over two pounds and are extremely destructive to the environment, tearing up whole whole forests and polluting streams with their waste.  They also carry several diseases and parasites, which is why the U.S. Department of Agriculture has advised killing them on sight.

Stacey quickly dispatches the two sows in the group, and when she and Mike go over to get a closer look they find the remains of an infant buried in the mud.  Near the baby’s body the initials KC have been scratched into the bark of a tree.  Two days earlier, Mike had been at this very spot looking for the swine and neither the corpse nor the initials had been there.

Returning to the area the next day, Mike talks to the owner of the local convenience store, Eddie Fales.  Eddie tells him he knows everyone who lives in the area and that no one is living in the woods.  He sounds convincing, but still Mike decides to drive a bit farther down the road and check things out.  Just about at the end of the road there’s a house, almost abandoned-looking but showing tire marks that someone has tried to brush away from the driveway.  Calling the state police detective in charge of the case, he is told she’ll send a trooper in the morning to look into who might be living in the house and that Mike should stay away in the meantime.  But, Mike being Mike, he’s not able to leave the puzzling question unanswered.

Thus starts the harrowing adventure that is Knife Creek, the eighth in the Mike Bowditch mystery series.  Mike is a great protagonist, dedicated to his job, caring and compassionate to his friends, definitely not afraid to break a few rules when he thinks it’s necessary.  The latter is what got him into trouble early in his career, and it’s something he’s still dealing with–when to follow his superiors’ orders and when not to.  And in this novel there are plenty of occasions he decides to go his own way, for better or worse.

Paul Doiron has written another powerful book in this series, one that will keep you on edge until the very end.  The setting, the plot, and the characters are all first-rate; of course, by this time I expect nothing less from the author.  FYI, I’ve chosen Trespasser, the second Mike Bowditch novel, to represent the state of Maine in the course on New England mysteries I’m teaching in the fall at Brandeis University’s BOLLI Program.

You can read more about Paul Doiron at this website.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her website.

 

THE PROMISE by Robert Crais: Book Review

Elvis Cole, the private investigator who is the protagonist of many of Robert Crais’ crime novels, has a very mysterious client.  Meryl Lawrence comes to him with a strange request–she wants him to find her colleague, Amy Breslyn, who has been missing for a couple of days, but she insists that the search must be conducted in complete secrecy.

She hands Elvis two thousand dollars in cash, an address for a friend of the missing woman’s late son, and a personnel file that she believes will help locate Amy.  Meryl’s desire for secrecy is so over-the-top that she won’t even come to Elvis’ office; instead, they meet in a parking lot behind a book store in Pasadena.

Both Amy and Meryl work at Woodson Energy Solutions, a chemical firm where Amy is employed as an engineer.  Meryl tells Elvis that because their work is classified, no indication of his investigation must get out and insists that Elvis make this promise.  “Swear to me.  Swear you won’t breathe a word.”  “I promise.” Bound by his word, Elvis is finding it increasingly difficult to probe into Amy’s disappearance.

Amy’s only son Jacob was a photographer who was killed, along with thirteen other people, by a terrorist explosion in Nigeria.  That was nearly a year and a half before the book opens, and since then Amy has become more and more reclusive.  Now she has disappeared.

Elvis goes to the address that Meryl has given him and is surprised to find it surrounded by Los Angeles police, with a helicopter overhead.  As he’s deciding how to handle the situation a man comes running out of the house, and Elvis gives chase.  He’s not able to catch him and is forced to stop when a policeman with a pistol confronts him.  Believing that Elvis has acted suspiciously, the cop puts him in a squad car without explanation.  But when Elvis sees the words on the police car he begins to understand what all the commotion is about:  they read Bomb Squad.

Cole is joined in the case by his long-time friend and colleague, Joe Pike, plus two relatively new characters to Elvis’ world:  Scott James and Jon Stone.  Scott is a former Marine who is presently a dog handler in the L. A. police department’s K-9 division; Jon Stone, a friend of Pike’s, is a former Delta Force member turned mercenary, with expertise in technology.  Together, the four men, with assistance from Scott’s dog Maggie, team up to find Amy Breslyn and solve the mystery surrounding her.

As always, it’s a delight to reconnect with Elvis Cole.  He’s a protagonist who has grown with the series, a fascinating man with his own set of quirks and strengths.  He is perfectly described by Raymond Chandler’s famous quote about mean streets (my edits):  “a man…who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid.  He is the hero; he is everything….If there were enough like him, the world would be a very safe place to live in, without becoming too dull to be worth living in.”

You can read more about Robert Crais at this web site.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her web site.

THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN by Paula Hawkins: Book Review

There’s a good reason that The Girl on the Train is a #1 New York Times best-seller.  It’s a fabulous read.

Rachel is the girl on the train and one of the book’s narrators.  She’s been fired from her job in the city but still tells her best friend, in whose house she’s renting a room, that she goes to work every day.

This daily train trip creates a problem for her.  The train passes the house she and her ex-husband Tom lived in when they were married and where he lives now with his new wife and child.  It also passes another house on that street where a young couple named Megan and Scott live; although she doesn’t even know their names, Rachel has created a fantasy life for them in her mind.

Megan is the second narrator we meet.  She’s outwardly happy, but she’s hiding a secret from years ago that is tormenting her and making her put herself in dangerous situations.  Rachel doesn’t know Megan and Scott, but in her imaginary world she has re-named them Jess and Jason and made them the perfect couple, and her obsessive fascination with them is the spark for the novel’s tragedy.

Anna is the third narrator.  Anna was Tom’s mistress during his marriage to Rachel, and she has no regrets about her part in their breakup.  She does regret that she has to live in the house that Tom lived in during his first marriage, but he tells her they can’t afford to move.  In addition, she is bothered because Tom can’t seem to get rid of Rachel, who calls and texts him constantly, going so far as to enter their house without their knowledge or permission.  Why does she persist in these behaviors, Anna wonders, when she knows Tom doesn’t want her?

The tensions in the three women grow to the breaking point.  Each is intertwined in the others’ lives both knowingly and unknowingly.  Rachel and Anna, of course, are aware of each other, but Rachel doesn’t know Megan or anything about her until well into the novel.  However, when Rachel does get entangled in Megan’s life, it leads to the climax that pulls all the threads together.

The Girl on the Train is a terrific thriller, with characters the reader can relate to and in whom they can believe.  We may not want to have any of these women or the men in their lives as friends, but we can understand their foibles and problems, even sympathizing with them while at the same time condemning their actions.  That’s real life, and Paula Hawkins shows it to us.

You can read more about Paula Hawkins at this web site.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her web site.

 

 

 

 

THE BISHOP’S WIFE by Mette Ivie Harrison: Book Review

Linda Wallheim is a typical Mormon wife and mother.  Her husband Kurt is the bishop of a ward, the community’s leader, and Linda is a stay-at-home wife, with the youngest of their five sons about to graduate from high school.  She is a devoted member of the Church of Latter-Day Saints, although a questioning one, and events in their small Utah town are going to give her more reasons to question than she ever had before.

An early morning visit by a member of their ward, Jared Helm, and his young daughter Kelly brings the news that Jared’s wife has left their home.  He claims that he doesn’t know where Carrie is, only that she left a note saying that she wasn’t going to return.  Jared has come to see the bishop to get his reassurance that he hasn’t done anything wrong and that the church is behind him.

Then Carrie’s parents, Judy and Aaron Weston, come to the bishop for help.  They are certain, they say, that Jared is behind Carrie’s disappearance and possibly her death.  They tell Linda and Kurt that Carrie was desperately afraid of her husband, that he had threatened and abused her, keeping her away from her parents. 

They have gone to the police but were told that Carrie wasn’t gone long enough to declare her a missing person.  Linda suggests calling a press conference and asking for the public’s help, and the Westons agree to do that.  In the meantime, Linda has formed a strong attachment with five-year-old Kelly, and she is upset and disturbed when Jared’s father moves into Jared’s house and seems reluctant to let Linda spend any time with his granddaughter.

At the same time, the Wallheims’ neighbor, Tobias Torstensen, is very ill but refusing to go to the hospital for treatment despite entreaties from his wife Anna.  Anna is his second wife, the stepmother of his two sons.  And when Tobias dies shortly afterwards, he leaves a number of unanswered questions about his first wife and the plans for his burial.

Mette Ivie Harrison has written a fine novel, interspersing doctrines of the Mormon church with the stories of the Helms and the Torstensens.  Explanations are needed, because much of the novel depends on understanding the rules of the church, many of which are different from other Christian sects. 

As the bishop’s wife Linda Wallheim has no direct power, but she tries to be aware of issues surrounding her.  She is angry at herself for not seeing the trouble between Carrie and Jared Helm, thinking she might have been able to prevent the young wife from running away, and she is concerned about her own intense interest in young Kelly.  Is it because she is worried about the type of father and grandfather the girl has or is it because in Kelly she sees the child she might have had if her only daughter had not been stillborn?

The Bishop’s Wife is a fascinating look into a religion unfamiliar to many of us.  Linda Wallheim’s doubts and concerns are real, as are the sudden, strong feeling she gets about people, either pro or con.  She is sure of herself one minute, doubting herself the next.  She is a very human character.

You can read more about Mette Ivie Harrison at this web site

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her web site

 

 

 

 

 

THE GIRL WITH A CLOCK FOR A HEART by Peter Swanson: Book Review

When I first heard about The Girl with a Clock for Heart, I didn’t understand what the title meant.  But after reading Peter Swanson’s remarkable first novel, I totally get it.  Liana Decter has no more feeling, no more empathy, than a mechanical device.  She’s a human being without a heart.

George Foss is forty, working for a literary magazine and having an on-again off-again relationship with Irene, a woman he’s known for years.  But he can’t commit because he lost his heart (and some might say his reason) more than twenty years earlier when he was a college student.  That’s when he met Liana, then calling herself Audrey Beck, and the two of them had a passionate, whirlwind romance throughout their first semester. 

Each went home separately during winter break, George to Massachusetts and Audrey/Liana to Florida.  She gave him her phone number but asked that he not call her, saying that her parents wouldn’t be happy if she received calls from a boy she’d met at college.  She promised to contact him, but she never did.

The day George returned to Mather College, he phoned his girlfriend’s room several times but never got an answer.  Later that night, he got a call from her roommate telling him that Audrey was dead, having asphyxiated herself in her parents’ garage.  Devastated by grief, George takes a bus to the small Florida town where she had lived to pay his respects, only to find out that the girl at Mather calling herself Audrey Beck was actually someone else.  The real Audrey is dead, but where is the girl who has been using her name?  And who is she?

The Girl with a Clock for a Heart switches between past and present, between George’s college years and his current life.  George is one of the walking wounded.  On the outside, he’s gainfully employed, owns his own apartment, and is in a relationship.  On the inside, he’s stuck as the business manager of a literary magazine that’s destined to fold soon, and his relationship with Irene has been going nowhere for years.  He spends his nights at Jack Crow’s Tavern in Boston’s Back Bay, making a couple of drinks last as long as possible, before returning to his apartment where only his cat will be waiting for him.

But all that changes one night when, waiting for Irene to meet him for a drink, he looks across the tavern and sees Liana.  Even though two decades have passed, Liana still exerts an almost mystical hold over George, and when she tells him she’s come to him for help, he cannot resist.  Each favor she asks of him drags him more deeply into danger, but he’s helpless to stop himself.

The Girl with a Clock for a Heart is an incredible debut novel.  We all have known characters like George, who is so self-effacing that he has put his life on hold because of his first and only love.  And we’ve also known characters like Liana, so uncaring and selfish that, for them, the rest of the people in the world don’t exist.  Indeed, if Liana is the girl who feels nothing, George feels too much.

You can read more about Peter Swanson at this web site.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her web site.

 

 

 

 

 

DEAD MAN’S FANCY by Keith McCafferty: Book Review

Rivers and mountains, trees and trails.  That’s what most people think of when they think of Montana, the Big Sky country.  But even beside the beautiful Papoose Mountains, there is murder.

Sheriff Martha Ettinger is looking for Nanika (Nicki) Martinelli, the fly fishing guide/dude ranch naturalist who is missing from the Culpepper ranch.  Nicki had gone out with a group of tourists and another guide from the ranch, said she would take the long road back alone, and never returned.

As part of the search party, Martha is riding up a mountain trail when she sees a body in the snow.  Closer examination shows that it’s not Nicki but one of the Culpepper wranglers who had started searching for her before the sheriff was called in.  And the wrangler has an elk’s antlers piercing his midsection.

The missing Martinelli woman had cast a spell over nearly all the men in the Madison River Valley.  Before she joined the staff at the Culpepper spread, she worked as a river guide at Sam Meslik’s place, a job that led to a brief sexual relationship between the two.  And just two nights before she went missing, Sam and the now dead wrangler got into a fist fight over Nicki.

The issue of wolves in Montana runs through the novel.  The reintroduction of wolves into the state in the mid 1990s was, and still is, controversial.  Most ranchers and farmers oppose it, claiming that the wolves would devastate animal herds, while environmentalists and tourism groups claim the wolves could be contained and bring in much needed revenue from outside the state.  In Dead Man’s Fancy, the anti-wolf group believes that Nicki was killed by a marauding pack of wolves, and after she has not been found following a search of several days, their point of view gains adherents.

Knowing that Sam is Sean Stranahan’s close friend, Martha calls Sean back from a fishing trip to talk to Sam and get the full story about his relationship with Nicki.  Sean, also a fishing guide, has a private investigator’s license and has helped Martha out in previous cases.  After speaking with Sam, he starts looking more deeply into the life of the missing Nicki.

His search takes him to the county where she had lived with her father, to a sheriff whose county has been poisoned by asbestos, to Martha’s cousin who is getting ready to marry a wealthy widow despite the opposition of her family.

The characters in Keith McCafferty’s series have grown and matured over the three novels in the series.  Sean is still a man searching for his place in the world, or at least his place in Montana, but he seems closer to finding it.  And Martha Ettinger has become more self-confident and assured in her role as sheriff.  They both have baggage from their pasts, but they seem to be more at ease with themselves and each other now.

Keith McCafferty brings the Treasure State to life.  His love for the outdoors is obvious and not surprising given his position as Survival and Outdoor Skills editor of Field & Stream.  Just as impressive as his ability to bring his home state alive is his ability to make his characters real.  Both recurring characters and new ones are vibrant, believable, and make us care about them.  I’m already eager to read the next book in the series.

You can read more about Keith McCafferty at this web site.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Reads blog at her web site.

 

 

 

FAITHFUL PLACE by Tana French: Book Review

Talk about your dysfunctional families.  The Mackeys of the Liberties section of Dublin put most other families to shame.

Faithful Place is the street, ill-named as it may be, where the Mackeys live.  The protagonist, Francis (Frank) Mackey has managed to escape his family and his childhood home, but all the other members of his family either still live there or haven’t gone far.

Frank is now a member of Dublin’s Undercover Squad, divorced, and the father of a nine-year-old daughter. Both his sisters are married with homes of their own.  But Frank’s brothers, Shay and Kevin, are still unmarried and live with their parents although they are well into their thirties.  And the Mackeys’ overbearing mother and alcoholic father are still at each other’s throats as they were all the years their children were growing up.

What got Frank out of Liberties was his plan, as a nineteen-year-old, to run away with his sweetheart Rosie Daly.  Very much in love and forbidden by Rosie’s father to see each other, Rosie suggests boarding the ferry to England and getting jobs there.  It takes them several months to save the required money, but finally all the plans are in place.  Frank is waiting for Rosie at midnight on the specified night, but she never shows.  And she’s never seen again.

Still desperate to escape his family, Frank gets as far as the other side of Dublin and becomes a member of the police force.  And for twenty-two years he has kept his distance from his family, his only contact being his younger sister Jackie.  As the story opens, Jackie has contacted Frank with incredible news–Rosie’s suitcase was found in a derelict house on Faithful Place, hidden behind the fireplace.  And Rosie’s suitcase turns out to be a modern-day Pandora’s box.  Secrets that have been hidden for years burst into the open when it is discovered.

Faithful Place is not a part of Dublin on the tourist route. It’s changing a bit as the new economy brings Yuppies into the area, but by and large it’s still the same families living there who have lived there for generations.  The men work in factories or are on the dole; the lucky ones work on the line at Guinness.  There’s very much a sense of not getting above yourself, not trying to be better than your parents or your peers.  If you do that, you’re definitely under suspicion.

Frank has moved out and on successfully, and that doesn’t sit right with his family. His older brother Shay is resentful, dreaming of the day that he will buy the bicycle shop he’s worked in for years, but he’s still living in the flat above his parents.  His younger brother Kevin seems younger than his years, never venturing far from home.

Tana French paints a devastating portrait of a neighborhood and a people stuck in place. The same arguments, the same rivalries, the same unhappiness exist more than two decades after Frank has left home.  It’s no wonder he didn’t want his young daughter to even know of the existence of this family.  And he’s furious when he finds out that his sister Jackie and his ex-wife have been secretly bringing his daughter to Faithful Place to visit his family.  Ms. French’s portraits of a family and a community coming apart is vivid and frightening.

Strangely, Tana French’s web site is three years out of date.  But you can read more about her at http://www.bookreporter.com/authors/au-french-tana.asp.