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Posts Tagged ‘multiple murders’

SUNRISE HIGHWAY by Peter Blauner: Book Review

The saying “some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ’em” is a famous line from Twelfth Night.  Can it also be that some are born evil and some have evil thrust upon them?

Hauppauge, New York is the kind of small town people move to in order to escape violence and crime in the big city.  On the surface all is well in this town with its good public schools and its strong police force and judiciary.  But under the surface things are rotten.

In 1977, a young white girl is killed in a wooded area of town, with a bunch of twigs and leaves stuffed down her throat.  Suspicion immediately falls on Delaney Patterson, one of the few young black men in town.  The police theorize that Delaney, who had recently moved to Hauppauge and was touted to be a star on the high school football team, got in with the wrong crowd when an injury forced him off the gridiron.

Detective “Billy the Kid” Rattigan tells the new, naive, and eager-to-please assistant district attorney, Kenny Makris, that he believes the young man and the girl had a fight, possibly over drugs, and that Delaney killed her.  Rattigan even has someone who witnessed, or nearly witnessed, what happened–that both young people went into the woods but only Delaney came out.  And the witness is Joey T., then the teenage son of a police officer in town.

Now, thirty years later, Joey T. has become the town’s police chief.  He is in control of every aspect of the law, and those who oppose him do so at their peril.  It’s Joey T. who seems to have been born evil and Kenny Makris who has evil thrust upon him.  But evil is insidious, and once Kenny has taken that first step over to the “dark side,” it’s too late to reconsider.

Into this situation comes Lourdes Robles, a New York City police detective.  She is called to Far Rockaway in that city’s borough of Queens when a large green bag is washed up on the shore.  Upon opening the bag it’s discovered that inside is the corpse of a pregnant woman, her throat stuffed with rocks.  Given that Far Rockaway is almost swimming distance to Nassau County, Lourdes and her team reach out to the police there and are surprised at their colleagues’ immediate determination to take over the case.  It’s too quick, Lourdes thinks, and she determines not to give up the case until she’s forced to do so.

Joey T. runs his town with an iron fist, and those who try to oppose him are dealt with summarily.  He is adept at finding the chinks in one’s armor, and if they doesn’t exist he’ll use force to get his way.  The combination of threats and bribery has made him untouchable.  That is, until Lourdes comes to town.  She is a heroine fighting her own family-related demons, but they will not get in the way of her solving the case. 

Sunrise Highway will have you hooked from its first chapter.  Peter Blauner has written a chilling novel, with a strong, believable plot and realistic characters.   You can read more about him at this website.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her website.  In addition to book review posts, there are sections featuring Golden Oldies, Past Masters and Mistresses, and an About Marilyn column that features her opinions about everything to do with mystery novels.

THE LEGACY by Yrsa Sigurdardóttir: Book Review

In 1987, three young children are removed from their home in Iceland by the local child protection agency.  All three have the same mother, although possibly not the same father.  After much debate, it’s decided that the three will have to be sent to separate homes, as no placement can be found to take all of them together.  The two brothers are four and three, the sister is only one.

In 2015, the first in a series of murders take place.  Elísa Bjarnadóttir, the mother of three young children, is brutally murdered in her home while her husband is overseas.  Only her little girl, Margrét, has seen the murder take place, although she hasn’t seen the face of the killer.  To say she is traumatized is an understatement.  Interviews by psychologists aren’t able to gain much information from her, except for her statement that the man is black and has a big head.  Given the infinitesimally small number of black men in Iceland, this seems like something the child has imagined.

Nothing helpful comes of the police investigation, no reason or motive for the crime can be found.  The only unusual thing the police discovered is an envelope taped to the victim’s refrigerator; it reads “So tell me,” followed by a huge series of seemingly unrelated numbers.  It’s not a code that the authorities can decipher.

Then a second murder occurs, even more gruesome and bizarre than the first.  This time the victim is a widowed math teacher who apparently has no connection with Elísa.  Astrós Einarsdóttir has been a bit of a recluse since her retirement two years ago, so she’s surprised to receive a text reading “Not long till my visit,” along with another string of seemingly random numbers.  She readies herself for the uninvited guest, although there’s no time or date given in the text, and when her visitor does arrive he’s the last person she’ll ever see.

The two protagonists in the novel are psychologist Freyja and police detective Huldar (often only single names are used in Icelandic books).  Shortly before the first murder took place, Freyja and Huldar had a one-night stand, which ended with Huldar leaving before Freyja woke in the morning.  When they meet again during the interrogation of Margrét there is understandable tension between the two:  Huldar is embarrassed and ashamed of his behavior, Freyja is hostile and unforgiving.  But they must work together to try to protect the child from both the psychological repercussions of the crime and the possibility that the murderer views her as a possible witness to be eliminated.

Every one of Yrsa Sigurdardóttir’s books has been outstanding, and The Legacy is no exception.  The many threads in the story seem unrelated until the end, when everything is deftly and logically connected.  And the look into Icelandic culture, which has many of the same problems as we do in the United States, although on a much smaller scale, is a reminder of the universality of human emotions.  Parental neglect, anger, revenge, and loneliness all play out to the eventual tragic ending that such unhappiness must cause.

You can read more about Yrsa Sigurdardóttir at various sites on the web.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her website.  In addition to book review posts, there are sections featuring Golden Oldies, Past Masters and Mistresses, and an About Marilyn column that features her opinions about everything to do with mystery novels.

 

 

 

 

 

THE MAN IN THE CROOKED HAT by Harry Dolan: Book Review

Several years ago I reviewed When Bad Things Happen, Harry Dolan’s first novel, and I wrote that I was struck by the twists and turns of the plot.  Mr. Dolan hasn’t lost his touch in the intervening years, as is evidenced by his latest mystery.  You almost need a scorecard to keep track of what’s going on, but a bit of confusion is well worth it; The Man in the Crooked Hat is an outstanding novel.

Jack Pellum is deep in grief over the murder of his wife.  At the time of her death, nearly two years earlier, he was a Detroit police detective, but his obsession with finding Olivia’s killer led first to his suspension and then to his quitting the force.  He doesn’t care about that; in fact, he doesn’t care about anything at all except finding the killer.  He spends his days and nights looking for any thread that might lead him to a man in the crooked hat, a man he saw the day his wife died.  He has papered his neighborhood with flyers asking for information about him, but so far there have been no results.

Then a young man in a Detroit neighborhood commits suicide, leaving a bizarre note on his living room wall–There’s a killer, and he wears a crooked hat.  That’s all the incentive Jack needs to look into Dan Cavanaugh’s death, and with that he becomes immersed in investigating a series of deaths in the area that may or may not be connected to his wife’s.  There doesn’t seem to be anything similar about these deaths–two of which have been deemed accidents–but the fact that there are so many has Jack convinced, or almost convinced, that if he’s able to untangle the strands he will find Olivia’s murderer.

Finally Jack gets a response to the posters.  Paul Rook, a man whose mother was murdered nine years ago, contacts him.  Her killer was never found, and he is convinced that the man who murdered her wore a hat, a man he saw near his house only two days before his mother’s death.  He tells Jack to stop looking for a thread that connects all the murders because there is none.

“But if you look for him,” Paul says, “if you’re patient, you can find him.”  Paul has been doing his own research into murders in the greater Detroit area.  The earliest murder he can find that he’s sure this man committed goes back twenty years, and that victim was the older brother of Dan Cavanaugh, the man who just killed himself.

Jack is a man who has given up virtually everything in his search for his wife’s killer.  His job, his friends, his relationship with his parents have all faded away beside his need to find Olivia’s murderer and the reason for her death.  Is it justice he seeks, or is it vengeance?

The Man in the Crooked Hat is a brilliant look into the dangers of obsession and where they can lead.

You can read more about Harry Dolan at this website.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her website.  In addition to book review posts, there are sections featuring Golden Oldies, Past Masters and Mistresses, and an About Marilyn column that features her opinions about everything to do with mystery novels.

 

FINAL GIRLS by Riley Sager: Book Review

Imagine what life is like for Quincy Carpenter, the only survivor of a brutal attack that leaves six of her college dorm mates dead.  Ten years have gone by, but there’s not a day that she doesn’t think about that night.  And now someone has come into her life to bring it back into even sharper focus.

As Final Girls opens, Quincy is one of three girls who have been given that name by the media.  Each of the girls, actually women now, were the sole survivors of three different murderous attacks.  Lisa Milner’s took place at her college sorority house; Samantha Boyd was working at a motel when three guests were killed; and Quincy was with her friends at the remote Pine Cottage to celebrate the birthday of one of them.

Quincy has done her best to move on with her life.  She has a live-in boyfriend, she is the author of the Baking is Better than Therapy website, and she is still friends with the man who rescued her from the Cottage.  After Quincy ran screaming from the Cottage into the woods, it was Coop, a member of the local police force, who found her and took her to the hospital.  And he’s been a part of her life ever since.

Now Coop calls and asks her to meet him at their usual place.  Whatever he wants to talk about must be serious, Quincy thinks, because it’s a three hour drive from his home to Manhattan.  And it is serious–one of the three Final Girls, Lisa Milner, has been found dead by her own hand, according to local police.

Of course Lisa’s death brings out the media in full force, camped in front of Quincy’s condo.  When she returns from a jog in Central Park, hoping that the crowd has dispersed, she spots a familiar face among the reporters.  At first she can’t remember who the woman is, although judging from the outfit she’s wearing, she must write for some type of alternative paper or blog, Quincy thinks.  But that turns out not to be the case.  In fact the woman with the raven black hair, combat boots, fishnet stockings, blood red lips, and goth eyeliner is Samantha Boyd, the other surviving Final Girl.

Both Jeff, Quincy’s almost fiancé, and Coop, her detective/father figure, are suspicious of Sam’s motives in coming to Quincy immediately after Lisa’s death.  Quincy herself is unsure about Sam, but there’s a connection between them that she can’t ignore.  So she doesn’t, to her peril.

Final Girls is a thriller that will keep you reading faster and faster until you reach the unexpected ending.  Riley Sager has written a terrific page-turner.

Riley Sager is the pseudonym of an editor and graphic designer.  You can read more about him at his website.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her website.  In addition to book review posts, there are sections featuring Golden Oldies, Past Masters and Mistresses, and an About Marilyn column that features her opinions about everything to do with mystery novels.

 

 

THE GRAVES by Pamela Wechsler: Book Review

Assistant district attorney Abby Endicott is facing a number of personal challenges in her life.  There’s her mother’s refusal to deal with alcohol abuse, Abby’s out-of-control financial debts, the two-edged sword of possibly being named district attorney now that the current one is running for mayor, and her confused feelings about her live-in boyfriend.  Then the perfect storm–all these challenges come together when a body is found.

Still on a leave of absence following a homicide, Abby simply can’t stay away from the action.  So when she gets a call from Boston police detective Kevin Farnsworth that a corpse has been found in an alley in the city’s Eastie section, Abby is on her way.  The victim is a young woman with what look like strangulation marks on her neck, a death that is very similar to that of a Boston University student whose body was found a few weeks earlier.  Both women had similar bruises, both apparently had been raped and their bodies moved from where the murders took place.

There’s no identification with the second body, but there is an ink stamp on the back of one hand.  It’s the design of a bar in Cambridge that Abby knows from her days at Harvard Law School, so she and Kevin head over to the Crazy Fox to see if someone knew the woman.  The bar’s manager says he can’t identify her from the cell phone video that Kevin shows him, but the bar’s security camera confirms that she had been there that night.  She apparently entered the Crazy Fox alone, but she left with a man, and when the manager tells Abby and Kevin that man’s name, Abby knows the case has just entered dangerous territory.  The man is Tommy Greenough, the son of a senator and a member of one of Boston’s richest families.

What makes Abby a particularly interesting heroine is the mix of positive and negative attributes she has; she’s most decidedly not a one-dimensional character.  On the positive side:  she’s bright, determined, not awed by authority.  On the negative:  she’s deeply in debt, spoiled by the life she’s led thus far, and facing attractions to other men besides the one with whom she’s living.  At times you will admire her, at other times you’ll want to shake her into recognition of how the real world works for most people.  There are a great couple of sentences near the end of the book that encapsulate my point:  “On the way home from work, I stop by Macy’s,  I’ve walked past the store a million times, but have never been inside.  I’m desperate since I had to let go of my housekeeper….”  You get the point.  But so does she, and she’s working on changing her life to fit her new circumstances.

The Graves is an excellent follow-up to Mission Hill, the first book featuring Abby Endicott.  I’m looking forward to the third novel in the series to see where Abby’s next case takes her.

You can read more about Pamela Wechsler at this website.

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

 

BLUE LIGHT YOKOHAMA by Nicolás Obregón: Book Review

Hideo Akashi was the most successful homicide detective in Tokyo, well-known for his ability to solve crimes that had other policemen stymied.  So what would have made him jump off the Rainbow Bridge to his death?

Inspector Kosuke Iwata, the protagonist of Blue Light Yokohama, is called in to the busy Tokyo police station to replace Hideo.  At first Senior Inspector Shindo appears reluctant to add Kosuke to his force, wondering aloud if his previous experience in a small district far from the capital, plus his leave of absence from the police for unspecified reasons for more than a year, make him the right choice to fill the famed detective’s shoes.  But manpower is low, Kosuke has the necessary qualifications, at least on paper, so his transfer to the Tokyo Homicide Squad is approved.

Kosuke is partnered with a young woman just transferred from the Missing Persons Bureau, Noriko Sakai, and the two are immediately assigned a case of multiple murder.  The four members of the Kaneshiro family were murdered in their home, their throats slit; even more disturbing, the father’s heart is cut from his body and taken away.  And a strange symbol appears on the master bedroom’s ceiling, that of a black sun.

There’s an immediate lead to a man with several arrests for sexual harassment, a man who was a coworker of Mrs. Kaneshiro.  Masaharu Ezawa takes one look at the two policemen who have come to question him and takes off, throwing a rock behind him that hits Kosuke in the face.  Kosuke runs after Masaharu, stops him with a body tackle, and the two detectives and the suspect head to the precinct.

Masaharu admits to a sexual obsession with Mrs. Kaneshiro, but Kosuke doubts he’s the murderer for whom the police are searching.  However, his superiors seem satisfied that the criminal has been caught, not believing, as Kosuke does, that this is a ritual killing, something that would require a different kind of man from Masaharu Ezawa.  After all, Kosuke reasons, this killer murdered four people without leaving a single fingerprint or clue, something he’s certain would have been impossible for Ezawa.

The police are more concerned with the murder of Mina Fong, a famous screen star, and are looking to complete the investigation of the Kaneshiro murders as quickly as possible.  Kosuke, however, is convinced that the family’s murders have a deeper, more obscure motive than simply the brutal crime it appears to be.  He underscores to Shindo the things that don’t fit:  a black sun sketched on a bedroom ceiling, turkey blood smeared on one of the bodies, incense in each body’s lungs discovered during the autopsy.  Reluctantly, Shindo agrees to give Kosuke one more day to investigate.

Blue Light Yokohama is a novel covering decades.  It opens with with a knife attack on a cable car, delves into Kosuke’s abandonment by his mother and his childhood in a Catholic orphanage, and follows him to his visit with his wife, a patient in a mental hospital.

Nicolás Obregón’s debut mystery is a strongly compelling story about the many layers of life in Tokyo, a deep look into the Japanese psyche.  Whenever the seamy top layer is exposed, another, equally dirty, lies beneath it.

You can read more about Nicolás Obregón at this web site.

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

HER EVERY FEAR by Peter Swanson: Book Review

There’s good news and bad news about Peter Swanson’s latest thriller, Her Every Fear.  The good news is that this novel is as compelling as his two other mysteries, The Girl with a Clock for a Heart and The Kind Worth Killing, two outstanding mysteries that are reviewed elsewhere on this blog.  The bad news is that I’ve finished Her Every Fear and now have to wait a year for another of his incredible thrillers.

Kate Priddy is a twenty-something English woman who suffers from debilitating panic attacks.  She’s been anxious and fearful ever since she was a child, although then it seemed there was no rational explanation for these emotions.  Unfortunately, for the last five years she has had a good reason for these feelings.  At that time she was nearly killed by an ex-boyfriend and suffered a mental collapse.  But now Kate believes she’s nearly ready to move on with her life, although the operative word is nearly.

Her American cousin, Corbin Dell, is about to be transferred to London for a six month period, and he writes to Kate’s mother asking for help in finding a flat in the city.  Mrs. Priddy suggests an apartment exchange to Kate–Kate would live in Corbin’s Boston apartment while Corbin stays in Kate’s flat.  Much to her mother’s surprise, Kate agrees.  Although the two cousins have never met or even corresponded before, Kate realizes that to complete her recovery she needs to move away from her parents’ well-meaning but slightly smothering protection and launch her own life.  And for Corbin, well, who knows what motivations lie behind his temporary move to London?

As Kate enters her cousin’s building in Boston, another woman walks through the door at the same time.  By the time Kate and Carol, a helpful neighbor Kate meets in the building’s lobby, approach Corbin’s apartment, the stranger is knocking on the apartment door opposite.  Visibly distraught, the woman tells Kate and Carol that she’s a friend of Audrey Marshall, the woman who is renting that apartment, but that Audrey hasn’t been to work that day nor answered any of her friend’s increasingly anxious texts and calls.

Carol suggests that Audrey’s friend go downstairs to the doorman and ask him to open Audrey’s door.  All this is a bit too much for Kate, who decides to leave the two women and go into her cousin’s apartment.  Jet-lagged and exhausted, she falls asleep.  But later the next day, Kate’s ill fortune appears to have followed her across the Atlantic–the police are knocking on her door to tell her that Audrey Marshall has been murdered.

Peter Swanson is absolutely one of the most gifted mystery writers around.  His plot will have you turning the pages of his books faster and faster until you reluctantly reach the last page.  His characters are totally realistic, with their strengths and weaknesses the characteristics you see among people you know.  He is a master at keeping the tension at a high level, with twists and turns that will keep you spellbound until the end.

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

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

 

AMONG THE SHADOWS by Bruce Robert Coffin: Book Review

Who better to write a mystery featuring a Portland, Maine police detective than a former Portland, Maine police detective? 

Bruce Robert Coffin’s debut, Among the Shadows, gives readers a look into the gritty, day-to-day work of policing a city against a clever, unseen enemy.  Dealing with difficulties in his personal life, John Byron faces enmity in his professional life as well.

John’s father worked as a Portland police lieutenant until the day he’s found at his kitchen table with a single bullet to his head, his revolver next to him.  John had idolized his father, even knowing his many faults, but he’s never been able to forgive him for his suicide.  Even twenty years later, he wonders how he could have been so wrong about the man.

Now two deaths have the Portland police department reeling.  A former detective, James O’Halloran, has been found dead in his bed.  O’Halloran was dying of cancer and cared for by two hospice nurses, and the immediate reaction to his death is that he died of natural causes.  However, the autopsy reveals three down feathers lodged in his throat, leading the medical examiner to conclude that O’Halloran was smothered, murdered as he slept.  He had been a friend of John’s father and, in fact, sat next to John in the church the day Reece Byron was buried.

Two days after O’Halloran’s murder, another former police detective, Cleo Riordan, is found dead in his home, this time from a bullet from his own gun.  Even though it appears to be a suicide, two deaths of former officers in less than a week is way too suspicious.  Coming across an old photo, John realizes that O’Halloran and Riordan were, along with his own late father, members of the Portland Special Reaction Team.  Are the remaining members of the team in danger?  And, if so, why?

John’s personal life is in a state of turmoil also.  After twenty years of marriage, his wife has served him with divorce papers.  This wasn’t a surprise, as John knew their marriage was troubled, but all his efforts to speak to Kay go directly to her voicemail.  At the same time, he’s developing feelings for his partner Diane Joyner, Portland’s first African-American detective.  It’s against all the rules for the two to become romantically involved, but sometimes rules are made to be broken.

Bruce Robert Coffin has created an interesting, conflicted protagonist in John Byron.  The author’s voice is authentic and powerful, and his insights into police work and his familiarity with the city of Portland make him a writer to watch.  I look forward to a second novel featuring John Byron and his city.

You can read more about Bruce Robert Coffin at this web site.

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

 

 

SENT TO THE DEVIL by Laura Lebow: Book Review

Poet and opera librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte is busy in Vienna, writing the words to accompany the operas of Mozart and Salieri.  Da Ponte has achieved some fame in the operatic genre at this point in his life, but his hope is to be able to write poetry full time.  However, for the moment his main income is from the production of the operas, so he continues that work.

It’s 1788, and the Austrian empire, led by Emperor Joseph II, is at war with the Turks.  Students are protesting on street corners, and citizens are watching what they say in public lest they attract the attention of the emperor’s soldiers or police.

Having been exiled for fifteen years from his native Venice for immoral conduct, Lorenzo has assembled a small group of friends to replace his family.  Chief among them is Father Alois Bayer, who has become almost a father to the younger man; their mutual love of books is what brought them together.  But the day after the two men meet for lunch, the priest is murdered in front of the Capistran Chancel.

Father Alois’ murder was the second in Vienna in three days.  The first was General Peter Albrecht, an elderly military man known throughout the city.  He, thought Lorenzo, was someone who might have had enemies, given his absurdly high self-regard and the current feeling in the city about the military.  But why would Father Alois be a victim as well, Lorenzo asks himself?  There doesn’t seem to be a connection between the two men.  However, when he goes to the police to get more information, he’s informed that they both were killed in the same way, with a single knife thrust across the neck.

Into this mix comes Giacomo Casanova, best known today for having made his last name synonymous with seducer of women In addition to his romantic escapades, he was known during his lifetime as a writer, adventurer, and spy.  In Sent to the Devil, Casanova is a close friend of Da Ponte’s and aids him, although not as much as he himself would like to believe, in capturing the man responsible for the series of murders that have rocked Vienna.

Laura Lebow seamlessly blends historical facts with fiction.  Da Ponte was, as the novel tells, the lyricist for two of Mozart’s most famous operas, Don Giovanni and The Marriage of Figaro.  In creating a series in which Da Ponte is the hero, Ms. Lebow has an incredible amount of information to work with:  he was born a Jew, converted as a child to Catholicism in order to gain an education, fathered illegitimate children while a priest in Vienna, moved to London, went bankrupt, fled to the United States, and became the first professor of Italian literature at Colombia University.  Honestly, you couldn’t make this up.

Da Ponte is, at least in the first two books of what I hope will be a long series, a more honorable and likeable man than he probably actually was.  But no matter, it’s the author’s prerogative to fashion her protagonist any way she chooses, and in The Figaro Murders (reviewed on this blog) and Sent to the Devil Lorenzo Da Ponte is a man worthy of respect.  Ms. Lebow has brought him and eighteenth-century Vienna vividly to life.

You can read more about Laura Lebow at this web site.

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

 

 

 

WHEN FALCONS FALL by C. S. Harris: Book Review

It’s 1813 in England.  In the seemingly quiet countryside of Ayleswick-on-Teme, Shropshire, villagers are talking about the death of a young woman who had arrived there only a week earlier.

Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin, has traveled to the village for two reasons.  The first is to honor a request by a young friend, Jamie Knox.  Shortly before he died Jamie asked Sebastian to return a family heirloom to his grandmother, Heddie, and so the viscount goes to Ayleswick-on-Teme to do so.

Before Sebastian can visit the grandmother he’s approached by young Archie Rawlins, who has become the town’s justice of the peace upon the recent death of his father.  After viewing the body of the young woman, known to the townspeople as Emma Chance,  Archie asks Sebastian for help.  Archie isn’t certain that her death is the suicide it appears to be.  It was a criminal offense to kill one’s self in nineteenth-century England; the body of a suicide was buried at a crossroads, without church rites and with a stake through its heart.  And the justice of the peace, although having known the woman for only a few days, would like to avoid that ending for her.

Emma Chance had arrived in the village with only a female servant and the equipment that an artist would carry.  She was allegedly traveling through the countryside to sketch, although that was considered a strange and rather inappropriate thing for a young widow, as she presented herself, to do.  She didn’t appear to have any friends or family in the town but had been asking everyone she met about their family histories.

All of this resonates strongly with Sebastian, as this is the second reason for his visit to the village.  He too is on a quest.  Brought up to believe that he was the third son of Alistair St. Cyr, Earl of Hendon, two years earlier he had discovered that he was the son of his mother and one of her lovers.  His father had known this, but when Sebastian’s two older, legitimate, brothers died, the earl named his illegitimate son his heir.

When Sebastian met young Jamie Knox some time before this book opens, he was struck by their uncanny resemblance to each other; it was remarkable enough so that they might have been brothers.  Thus, upon Jamie’s death Sebastian eagerly seized the opportunity to pay his respects to Heddie Knox, to ask her questions and possibly find out more about his paternal family.

When Falcons Fall begins with one death but soon encompasses many more.  There’s a history in this town of young women meeting unusual ends, usually seen as suicides, that strikes Sebastian and his wife Hero as too frequent to be normal.  And then there are the strange deaths of the two most powerful men in Ayleswick-on-Teme, one having died when his manor home was engulfed in fire, the other in a riding accident.  And no one in the village seems to be particularly upset about either death.

Although When Falcons Fall is the eleventh book in the series, there is enough background given to make the plot easily understandable.  All the characters are vibrant and realistic, and the double searches of Emma Chance and Sebastian St. Cyr make for a gripping plot.

You can read more about C. S. Harris at this web site.

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

 

 

THE SLAUGHTER MAN by Tony Parsons: Book Review

New Year’s Eve, London.  A night of celebration, fireworks, and noise–lots of noise.  So much that the horrific murders of four family members in an upscale gated community go unnoticed by neighbors.  Brad and Mary Wood and their two teenage children are dead.

Detective Max Wolfe is a member of the team of investigators, and he is the one who notices that there are photos of three children, the two dead teenagers and a young child, in the house.  But the family’s four-year-old son Bradley is nowhere to be found despite a desperate search of the house, the grounds, and an abutting cemetery.

The killings are eerily reminiscent of murders committed more than twenty years earlier, the weapon being a stun gun that is used on cattle.  A young Gypsy man, Peter Nawkins, was convicted of murdering a father and his three adult sons because they had opposed his engagement to the daughter of the family; he was recently released from prison after twenty years.  Terrible as the crimes were for which he went to jail, they were personal in nature.  Would he have committed such a crime against the Wood family, people whom he tells police he didn’t even know?

Further investigation shows that Mary Wood was the former Mary Gatling, the “Ice Virgin” of the 1994 Winter Olympics in Norway.  Her two siblings, Charlotte and Nils Gatling, go to the media, begging for someone to come forward with information about their young nephew.  Max can’t decide if this is helpful or not.  Will it make people more observant, looking for Bradley Wood in every possible place, or will it overwhelm the police with a thousand calls, well-meaning or not, that will only serve to interfere with the hunt for the child?

In the photos in the house, the Woods look like the perfect family.  They were all good-looking and photogenic, even the dog.  There were pictures of the teenagers playing hockey and football, smiling on the family’s boat, vacationing in Norway.  But did that kind of life breed jealousy and anger in people looking at the Woods’ videos on You Tube?  The police think so.  As one of Max’s colleagues puts it, “Look at how much the world hates the beautiful people, the rich ones….Look how the world hates the happy ones.  Can’t you see it, Max?  Somebody killed the Wood family because they were happy.”

In addition to his search for Bradley, Max is dealing with his interest in Charlotte, Mary Wood’s sister.  He knows better than to get involved with a member of the deceased’s family, but Charlotte’s beauty and her intense devotion toward her missing nephew make her particularly appealing.

The Slaughter Man is a mystery that will hold your interest from the beginning to the end.  Its topics, ranging from child abuse to racial stereotypes, are all too familiar in today’s world.  Tony Parsons has written a taut, exciting novel with characters, both major and minor, that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

You can see Tony Parsons talking about The Slaughter Man on this You Tube video.

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

 

THE KIND WORTH KILLING by Peter Swanson: Book Review

Two strangers meet in a bar, talk while having a couple of drinks, and get on the same plane from England to Massachusetts.  It happens all the time.  Rarely does it end in murder. 

There is something, however, called Airport Rules.  That’s a variation of What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas, so what you say or do on an airplane doesn’t go any further than the plane.  Unless….

Ted Severson is a very successful businessman, a man with so much money that even the crash of 2008-09 didn’t touch him.  Lily Kinter is an archivist at a small college outside Boston, just striking up a conversation with a stranger to while away time before their flight takes off.  Perhaps it’s the result of the two martinis Ted has already drunk, and the third one he’s about to consume, but he tells Lily the story of his marriage to Miranda.  They met, they married, they live in Boston, and they’re in the process of building a second home in Maine.  Miranda has been overseeing every decision regarding the house, staying in Kennewick for days at a time to work with Brad Daggett, the contractor who is building the seven-bedroom house overlooking the Atlantic.

Planning to surprise his wife, Ted drives up to Kennewick, but it turns out that he is the one surprised.  Looking in one of the windows as he approaches the house, he sees Miranda and Brad sharing a moment that appears so intimate that it immediately makes him suspicious.  Then, pretending he has driven up merely for the afternoon, he leaves the construction site only to return later and, from a hiding place across the beach and aided by binoculars, witnesses the two having sex.

Lily has listened without comment to Ted’s story, the two of them now on the plane heading for Boston.  She asks him what he plans to do about the adultery he has seen.  “What I really want to do is to kill her,” Ted replies.  Without a pause, Lily responds, “I think you should.”

The Kind Worth Killing is told from several points of view–Ted’s, Lily’s, Miranda’s, and Henry Kimball’s, the Boston police detective who gets involved after the first murder.  In alternating sections, each narrator tells his/her story in the first person.  The characters are totally believable, their motives clear, and the very complex plot doesn’t have a single wrong note.  There are surprises on top of surprises, but not one feels false.

The final resolution comes on the book’s last page, and it’s perfection.  There’s not a moment’s letdown in this novel.

Peter Swanson has written a worthy successor to his debut novel, The Girl with a Clock for a Heart, which I reviewed in May 2014.  Mr. Swanson displays his talent by making us aware of his characters’ many flaws, yet somehow a bit of sympathy for them sneaks in almost against our will.  The three main characters, Ted, Lily, and Miranda, are all deviant in some way, but the author’s skill allows us to understand the reasons why.  The Kind Worth Killing is an outstanding novel in every way.

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

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

THE LONG AND FARAWAY GONE by Lou Berney: Book Review

The Long and Faraway Gone is definitely one of the top five mysteries I’ve read this year.  But to call this outstanding book a mystery is to limit it unfairly to that genre; although it follows two crimes and the resulting consequences for more than two decades, it is more a story of how violence and unanswered questions can define the lives of those left behind.

In August 1986 six teenage employees were shot to death in an Oklahoma City movie house after closing hours.  A seventh employee was found on the floor with the others, but he was not shot.  The police investigated for weeks but found no trace of the killers.  Now calling himself Wyatt Rivers, the man who was then the teenage Mike Oliver has spent twenty-six years wondering why he survived when the others didn’t.

Wyatt is now a private investigator in Las Vegas, and one of his clients asks him to go to Oklahoma City to check on a relative of his wife’s.  Candace Kilkenny, a young single mother, has recently moved to Oklahoma City to manage a live-music club left to her by a friend.  Candace doesn’t know anything about running a club, never had been to O.C. before, but she and her five-year-old daughter left Vegas and moved there.  Now she tells her cousin that someone is harassing her, and she needs help in figuring out what to do about it.

Wyatt doesn’t want to take the case, doesn’t want to go to O.C., but he also doesn’t want to share his reasons.  So, after a twenty-something year absence, he returns to the city of his youth and his nightmares.

In September 1986 there was another crime in that city, but this one was barely investigated.  Two sisters were spending the evening at the Oklahoma State Fair when the older one, Genevieve, left her twelve-year-old sister Juliana alone, sitting on a sidewalk on the fairgrounds.  Telling her younger sibling that she was going to check out a party she’d heard about and would be back in fifteen minutes, she walked away.  And in the first of many twists in this excellent thriller, it’s Genevieve who disappears and is never heard from again.

The police were convinced that Genevieve was a runaway, so little time was given to the case.  Juliana has spent the past two decades following every possible lead in an effort to locate her only sibling.  Her parents are dead, and she has made finding Genevieve, or at least finding out what happened to her, her life’s mission.  Her obsession, some would call it.  But for Juliana there is no choice; she must know what happened.

Lou Berney has written an extraordinary novel.  What happens when someone cannot let go of the past and go on with his/her life?  It’s understandable when those events are as traumatic as being the sole survivor of a massacre or having a loved one leave without a final word, not to return.  Yet shouldn’t life continue for the survivors of such tragedies, even if those lives can never be the same?

The Long and Faraway Gone is a book that will keep you engrossed until the end, pondering the above question well past the time you put the book down.

You can read more about Lou Berney at this web site.

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

 

 

EENY MEENY by M. J. Arlidge: Book Review

Two young musicians are hitchhiking home from a gig in London.  It’s pouring, but cars keep passing them by until a white van stops in front of them.  The woman at the wheel beckons them to come inside, then offers the couple a thermos of coffee to ward off the chill.  The next thing Amy and Sam know, they’re in a drained swimming pool, fifteen feet below its rim, with no way of climbing out.

Then the cell phone that’s been left on the pool’s floor rings.  A woman’s voice calls Amy by name, telling her there is one way, and only one way, out of their prison.  One of them has to pick up the gun, also lying on the pool’s bottom, and use it to kill the other one.  Then the survivor will live.

Eeny Meeny is a thriller in every sense of the word.  For no apparent reason, twosomes are being picked up by a woman, drugged, and abandoned without food or water at totally inaccessible locations.  Hours after they’re left there, a call comes in on a cell phone left at the site, telling whichever one of them answers what the conditions are–one must kill the other, the survivor will be rescued.  No killing, no rescue–they’ll both die.

It’s obvious that these crimes are not spur-of-the-moment ones.  Careful planning has gone into them, from knowing the schedules of the people chosen, picking the remote and secure places to hide them, and being able to rescue the survivors from their prisons.  Why would someone go to so much trouble to target these unlikely victims?

Helen Grace is a Detective Inspector of the Southampton Police, the officer in charge of what will become the hunt for a serial predator.  The  unknown suspect is not doing the killing herself, she is arranging for someone to do the killing for her.  As the abductions continue and the death toll rises, there seems to be no reason, no motive.  Until D. I. Grace discovers one.

Although Eeny Meeny is the first in a series, a lot of background is given to acquaint the reader with Helen Grace.  We learn early on that her job is her life.  She is “…six feet of driving ambition.  Never late, never hungover, never sick.  She lived and breathed her job….”  That seems admirable, until one asks why is her life so empty otherwise?  And there’s a good, if unnerving, reason for that.

Helen’s colleagues form an interesting group.  There’s Detective Sergeant Mark Fuller, formerly her most trusted assistant, now reeling from a nasty divorce which has separated him not only from his former wife but also from his young daughter.  Detective Charlene “Charlie” Brooks is the newcomer on the team, determined to prove her worth as an officer but holding onto her own personality by wearing her not-according-to-regulation outfits on the job.  And there’s Detective Superintendent Whittaker, annoyed at Helen’s outstanding record of arrests and convictions, just waiting for a reason to take her off the case.

Warning:  don’t start Eeny Meeny before bedtime if you want a good night’s sleep.  But definitely do start it; you won’t be able to put it down.

You can read more about M. J. Arlidge at this web site.

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

 

DOUBLE VISION by Colby Marshall: Book Review

Dr. Jenna Ramey is a forensic psychiatrist with the FBI.  She brings years of experience to her job, but she also brings something that no other agent/profiler can match–she has synesthesia, a neurological condition causing her to visualize various colors that she has learned correspond to what people are saying or how they are behaving.

A shooting is taking place in a grocery store filled with senior citizens.  But the caller to the 911 emergency line is a six-year-old girl who came to the store with her grandmother.  Young Molly Keegan is almost unbelievably calm when talking to the emergency dispatcher Yancy Vogul, but everything she tells him can be verified.  She has counted the seven shots and, sure enough, there are seven victims dead when the police and FBI agents arrive on the scene.

Yancy, Jenna’s significant other, is still recovering from the accident that left him with a prosthetic leg.  Unable to work as a field agent for the Bureau, he now is behind the desk of the local police station, grateful that he still has some connection to law enforcement but despondent about not having the career he wanted.  So, although he knows better, he’s become emotionally invested in CiCi Winthrop, a woman who has called 911 several times about her abusive husband but has refused to press charges.  So now Yancy is just going a little out of his way, he tells himself, “just to check.”  What harm could it do?

After a second interview with Molly, Jenna and her colleagues become fearful that the man they are looking for is the serial murderer they are calling the Triple Shooter.  As Jenna tells the other agents, “This isn’t a random shooter.  We’ve seen him before.”  There are differences between this shooting and the previous ones, but Jenna still believes the UNSUB (unknown subject) has committed the previous murders.  He has killed women only before, and this mass shooting included both sexes.  But there’s something about all the crimes that connect them in Jenna’s mind, although she’s not sure what that is.

There are significant pieces in Jenna’s backstory.  Her mother, Claudia, is a serial killer who has escaped from a mental hospital, and no one knows her whereabouts now.  And Jenna’s daughter’s father, Hank, was murdered a year ago, and some members are contesting the will in which he named Ayana in both his insurance policies; Hank’s mother, in particular, is demanding proof that Ayana is actually her granddaughter.

Is Jenna’s condition a neurological aberration or a gift, an additional hidden sense?  Sometimes it seems to Jenna that it’s both, helping her when she’s working a crime scene or interviewing witnesses, interfering with her work when the colors she visualizes don’t seem to make sense.  But overall she confident that synesthesia works well for her, a “sixth sense” that can help her tell truth from fiction.

Color Blind is the second novel in the series featuring Dr. Jenna Ramey.  I’m looking forward to the third one.

You can read more about Colby Marshall at this web site.

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