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Posts Tagged ‘police detective’

RIVER OF SECRETS by Roger Johns: Book Review

Racial relations between blacks and whites are at the heart of Roger Johns’ second mystery, River of Secrets.

Detective Wallace Hartman of the Baton Rouge police department is the head of the squad investigating the murder of Herbert Marioneaux, a state senator with a varied career and political history.  In his younger days Herbert was a member of a mainline Protestant church, but he left it to become a pastor in an evangelical fundamental one.

An avowed segregationist early in his life, Marioneaux changed direction here as well and became a man apparently committed to equality between the races and the sexes.  Some people applauded this change as sincere, while others claimed it was a political ploy and would soon be abandoned.  Only Marioneaux knew the truth, and it died with him.

The day before his death, there was a confrontation between two men–Father Milton, a white priest at a local Catholic church and Eddie Pitkin, a black lawyer and social activist.  Eddie has come to the church to make the case for reparations for the decades of slavery that his ancestors had endured under families that were the forebears of the priest.

The scene is being videotaped by Eddie’s assistant.  Eddie makes his case that the priest’s family, as well as other families whose ancestors were slaveholders, should make monetary amends to the blacks who can prove that they are descended from Louisiana slaves.  A crowd gathers to watch the interchange, which is thus far cordial, when Wallace appears and leads Eddie away in handcuffs, thus avoiding what she believes could turn into violence.

While Eddie is in custody for disturbing the peace, the results from the police lab investigation of Martineaux’s murder come in.  Hairs and DNA were recovered from the senator’s shirt, and they match the DNA belonging to Eddie.  Eddie is the half-brother of Wallace’s very close friend, Craig, who tells the detective that his brother is innocent and that he was at the family’s fishing camp at the time of the senator’s death.

Soon Wallace is caught in the middle of rising emotions on both sides of the arrest.  There are those who are demanding Eddie’s release and claiming that his being taken into custody was too hasty and that the police are no longer investigating to find the actual murderer; others declare Eddie’s guilt is open-and-shut and he should be tried and convicted immediately.  And racial incidents are rearing their ugly heads in parts of the city.

River of Secrets tells what has become an an all-too-familar story in our country today, to which there is no easy answer.  Wallace is torn between the seemingly damning evidence against the man she arrested and his half-brother’s conviction that Eddie is not guilty of murder.  Whatever she does while looking more deeply into the case is sure to have repercussions for her, in both her career and her personal life.

Roger Johns has written an excellent mystery, with characters we have all either read about or know ourselves.  His picture of today’s racial climate, with its links to the past, will resonate with every reader.

You can read more about Roger Johns 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.

 

 

 

 

 

A RISING MAN by Abir Mukherjee: Book Review

Back when there really was a British Empire, India was “the jewel in the crown.”  Its incredible mineral riches, its variety of desirable goods such as cotton and spices, and its huge population of workers all made the subcontinent the most valuable part of Great Britain’s holdings.  But times change, and in 1919 things were changing in India more quickly than could be dealt with by the ruling class.

A Rising Man opens with the arrival in Calcutta, capital of the state of Bengal, of Captain Sam Wyndham.  He’s fresh from the Great War and from London’s Metropolitan Police Force.  Devastated by death and trauma–the death of his bride just three weeks after their wedding, the deaths of his half-brother and their father during the war, as well as the injury he suffered in France–Sam jumps at the opportunity he’s offered to join the police in Calcutta, about as far from England as he can get.

Barely has he arrived than he has his first murder case.  The body of an Englishman, dressed in evening clothes but with his throat slashed, is found in the city’s native section called Black Town, a place where no respectable British citizen would go.  Even worse, the corpse is in front of a brothel, making it clear that the case will have to be handled with the utmost care and sensitivity.

The body is that of Alexander MacAuley, a man of great importance in the Bengali government.  In fact, so important was MacAuley that there is a dispute over which department should take over the investigation–the Imperial Police Force or Military Intelligence–with Military Intelligence having more power.  So Sam and his two assistants, Digby and Banerjee, have only a very short time to solve the case before it’s taken from them.

In addition to the murder, Sam is dealing with another crime that may be related, although his superiors aren’t certain of that.  A mail train was stopped by a group of robbers, dacoits; a railway guard was killed but the safes on the train, usually filled with cash, were empty.  The whole set-up is strange, the train’s driver tells Sam:  it’s unusual for a train to be robbed this close to Calcutta, the guard’s murder seems pointless, and why didn’t the dacoits rob the first-class passengers if they were thwarted by the empty safes?

This novel is as rich as India itself was at the time it takes place.  There’s so much going on–the murder, the robbery, the daily buildup of tensions between the ruling British and the Indian natives, and the fight for power among the various government departments.  Added to this are Sam’s personal problems–his understandable depression about his wife’s untimely death, his increasing dependence on drugs to help control his physical and mental pain, and his newness to a culture so different from his own.

Abir Mukherjee’s debut novel is stunning in its complexity.  The plot and characters shine, and I was delighted to discover that the second book in the series, A Necessary Evil, was published earlier this year.  It’s a must read for me.

You can read more about Abir Mukherjee 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 OSLO CONSPIRACY by Asle Skredderberget: Book Review

Milo Cavelli, the son of a Norwegian father and an Italian mother, is a detective in the Oslo Police Department.  The only one on the force who is fluent in Italian, he’s asked by a superior officer to fly to Rome to bring home the body of a Norwegian woman who was killed there.

That’s straightforward enough, although it doesn’t seem as if the death of Ingrid Tollefsen is connected to Milo’s area of expertise, financial crimes.  But the truth of the adage follow the money is proved once again, for in fact the strangulation of the young scientist is more than the tragic local murder it seems at first; it is a crime with repercussions that will spread across the globe.

The Tollefsen family would seem to be under a devastating curse, with early deaths following three of its four members.  Ingrid’s mother died in childbirth, putting the thirteen-year-old girl in the position of being a mother to her newborn brother.  All went well until the night that her brother, then a high school student, was killed by a street gang; another victim of the gang was a popular high school teacher who was thought to have been trying to protect young Tormod.  The police knew the killers were the Downtown Gang but were unable to prove it, and its members went free.

Ingrid seems to have had no enemies, according to the executives at the pharmaceutical giant where she worked.  She was in Rome to attend a conference, Milo and his fellow officer Sørensen are told by her boss in Research and Development, Anders Wilhelmsen.  During the interview Anders tells them that  after the death of her brother two years earlier, she had received the customary two weeks’ leave of absence; however, after that, she had asked for an additional two months’ leave.  She didn’t explain why or what she was doing during that time, and Milo thinks that this may be an important part of the puzzle.

But there are many other parts of the puzzle that also need to be solved.  Was it Ingrid’s medical vial that is found on the street outside the hotel room where she died?  What does Verba on the vial’s torn label mean?  Is it simply a terrible coincidence that two members of the Tollefsen family were murdered, or is there a connection that has yet to be found?

There are other questions in the novel too, although they may not have a direct bearing on Ingrid’s death.  Who was the woman who bequeathed a Manhattan apartment to the Cavalli family?  Who is the person Milo’s semi-estranged father wants him to meet?  What is the connection between Milo’s family and a merchant ship that exploded in Italian waters in the 1970s?

Asle Skredderberget has written the third Milo Cavalli thriller, and it’s outstanding.  Milo is an original protagonist, brilliant in his field but conflicted in his personal life.  The other characters are totally realistic, with believable motives for their actions that move the plot along at a fast pace.  The Oslo Conspiracy will keep you spellbound until the end.

You can read more about Asle Skredderberget at this web site.

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

 

 

 

 

THE ICE BENEATH HER by Camilla Grebe: Book Review

As The Ice Beneath Her opens it’s winter in Stockholm, and homicide detective Peter Lindgren gets a call that brings him to the site of a particularly gruesome murder.  The victim, a young woman, has been found beheaded in the home of Jesper Orre.  Not only is the death scene macabre, but the detective realizes that it’s eerily similar to one that took place ten years ago in the city; that murder was never solved.

The novel’s second chapter takes place two months earlier.  There we meet Emma, a young woman who works in Clothes&More, the chain that’s owned by Orre.  She arrives at work wearing a huge diamond ring, but she won’t tell her co-workers the name of her fiancé or anything about him.  The reader learns that her fiancé is Jesper and that she’s promised him she won’t give anyone any information about him because it could cause trouble for him and herself. 

Emma goes to her apartment to prepare a dinner to celebrate their engagement, but Jesper never shows up.  She calls and texts him several times that night to no avail, and she still hasn’t heard from him by morning.

As the book returns to the present, Hanne is introduced.  She’s a psychologist who worked with the police years ago on the unsolved murder case, and she’s called now by Peter’s partner to help with this death.  What the partner doesn’t know, and Hanne doesn’t have any intention of telling him, is that during the course of the previous investigation she and Peter fell in love despite the fact that she was married.

So now Hanne is dealing with two very stressful issues.  One is the extremely unhappy marriage she’s been in for twenty years, the second is the knowledge that her memory is deteriorating and that at some future time she will be completely helpless.  Disregarding her husband’s instructions not to get involved with the present case, she goes to the police station and must confront her former lover there.

The Ice Beneath Her goes back and forth between these three protagonists.  We learn about Peter’s failed marriage and his inability to connect with his teenage son, with Hanne’s controlling husband and her beginning dementia, and the dysfunctional childhood that Emma survived.  All this is portrayed realistically and with empathy, leading the reader to understand the reasons for the present-day behaviors and motivations of these characters.

Camilla Grebe’s novel will keep the reader on a roller coaster ride, with many twists and turns that are all believable.  It’s a book that’s almost impossible to put down.

You can read more about Camilla Grebe at various sites on the internet.

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

 

 

 

 

 

THE WRONG SIDE OF GOODBY by Michael Connelly: Book Review

Being a cop is in one’s DNA, according to veteran police detective Harry Bosch.  Harry was forced to retire from the Los Angeles Police Department and is now working as a private investigator.  Still missing police work, he’s taken a part-time job working on cold cases, with no pay and no benefits, at the very small San Fernando Police Department.

Now Harry’s working on two cases simultaneously, one private and one official.  The private one comes via his former supervisor at the LAPD, John Creighton, dismissively known to his former colleagues as The Cretin.  Creighton is now the head of Trident Security, a multi-national security firm, and he’s asked Harry to take a job for one of their clients.  Although at first determined not to accept the job due in great part to his dislike of Creighton, Harry reconsiders when he’s offered a $10,000 check simply to meet with the client, the billionaire Whitney Vance.

When he meets Vance the following morning, he’s intrigued by the story the client tells him and the reason he wants to hire the detective.  So Harry agrees to look into the problem, working under an agreement of total secrecy, warned to speak only to Vance himself if/when he discovers anything.

At the same time Harry is working on a series of five rapes that have happened over a period of four years in the city of San Fernando.  Dubbed by the press the Screen Cutter, the rapist slits through the screens of first floor windows or back doors and assaults and terrorizes the women.  Nothing connects the victims, but because the scenarios are identical Harry believes the assailant was the same each time, someone who had access in some way to the women’s homes.  Trying to tie these cases in with others outside the city hasn’t worked, but Harry and his colleague Bella Lourdes continue to follow every lead, hoping to succeed before the rapist finds another victim.

Readers of the Harry Bosch series will discover that age has not softened or slowed down the detective.  Still chaffing at what he regards as unnecessary rules, Harry refuses to sign in or out at the station house as required.  He’s also using the department’s computer to aid him in his search on the Vance matter, another ruler-breaker.  Harry has left a trail of angry supervisors in his wake from previous positions he’s held, in great part because of his disregard for regulations; the only thing that has saved his career over the long haul is his success in closing homicide cases, over one hundred of them.

The author of more than thirty books, both fiction and non-fiction, Michael Connelly is a master story-teller.  The characters in The Wrong Side of Goodbye are real, the plot compelling.  With his latest novel, he has written another winner.

You can read more about Michael Connelly at this web site.

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

UNDER THE MIDNIGHT SUN by Keigo Higashino: Book Review

Reading Under the Midnight Sun is like taking a twenty-year trip through Osaka and Tokyo, starting in 1971.  It’s an incredible novel, one that requires a lot of patience and concentration to read but is well worth the effort.

Right from the beginning, Osaka Police Detective Sasagaki finds the murder of Yosuke Kirihara, owner of a pawnshop bearing his name, distinctly odd.  His body, found in a desolate building, is punctured with several stab wounds to the abdomen.  It appears to Sasagaki that the victim was there for a sexual interlude, but why would any man bring a woman to such a dirty, unpleasant place?

Yosuke’s wife Yaeko, eleven-year-old son Ryo, and Isamu Matsuura, the shop’s lone employee, were all in the apartment behind the shop when the murder apparently took place; given that Yosuke was missing overnight, it’s hard for forensics to give an exact time of death.  Sasagaki follows the deceased’s trail and discovers that on the day of the murder Yosuke had cashed in a CD, leaving the bank with a very large amount of cash.  The money wasn’t found on his body, and his wife and the pawnshop employee say they know of no reason why Yosuke would have had so much money with him when he was killed.

About a year later, there’s another death in the neighborhood.  Fumiyo Nishimoto is found in the tiny apartment she shared with her young daughter, Yukiho.  She was overcome by gas coming from her stove, but whether it was an accident or a suicide is impossible to tell.

These two deaths are the seeds from which the rest of the novel grow.  One of the plot lines deals with computers and hacking, and it’s very interesting to go back over forty years and read about life at the beginning of the computer age.  Personal computers are just beginning to appear in homes, cell phones are unknown.  In terms of the subtext of the plot, 1971 is another world and a distant one at that.  It must be noted that the book was published in 1999, so technology, DNA testing, and forensics were much more primitive then than they are now.

To go back to the first paragraph of this post, it’s only fair to point out a few things that make Under the Midnight Sun a dense and difficult read.  First is the length of time the novel covers and the size of the book–twenty years and 554 pages.  Second is that it takes a while to realize how much time has gone by at different points in the novel–events aren’t separated by chapters or headings with dates, so suddenly someone who was eleven on one page is five years older on the next.  Third is that there are many characters and, of course, they all have Japanese names.  Many of the names were very similar, and I had to keep referring back through the book to remember who they were in the story.

That being said, Under the Midnight Sun is a wonderful novel.  The book is beautifully translated, with a style so smooth that readers will think English is the original language.  I reviewed Higashino’s The Devotion of Suspect X several years ago and found this novel equally enjoyable.

Keigo Higashino is the winner of multiple awards for crime fiction in Japan, and several of his books have been adapted for television and films in Japan, South Korea, and France.

You can read more about Keigo Higashino at various sites on the web.

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

 

 

CITY OF THE LOST by Kelley Armstrong: Book Review

In the far north of Western Canada, there’s a refuge for those who have to flee their normal lives.  When Casey Duncan, a police detective in Ontario, first hears about this place from her close friend, Diana Berry, she’s disbelieving.  It’s another urban legend, she thinks.  But as things go from bad to worse for herself and Diana, she investigates and finds that such a town does indeed exist.

For five thousand dollars each, Casey is told, she and Diana can move to Rockton if they pass inspection.  They have to prove why they’re compelled to leave their current lives and move to the secret place, a location so totally off the grid that there’s no plane service, telephone lines, or Internet.  The people who live in Rockton must contribute their skills to the town–as cooks, medical personnel, storekeepers–or whatever the community needs at a given time.  As it turns out, at the moment it needs a detective.

Casey’s main reason for moving to Rockton is to get Diana away from her physically abusive husband Graham.  Time and again Graham has assaulted Diana, and each time she swears that she will never go back to him, but she does.  Indeed, she and Casey had moved from one city to another after a previous beating, hoping to leave him behind.  But Graham has found her again, and this time Diana says she’s made the final decision never to return to him and thus is desperate to leave no trail behind her for him to follow.  Casey, too, made a bad decision in the past that continues to haunt her and keep her in danger.  So Casey puts up the ten thousand dollars necessary for both of them to start new lives, hoping they can start over.  But can they?

For a town of two hundred people, there’s a lot going on.  The morning after Casey arrives, the body of a man who had been missing for a week is found.  The corpse was in the forest, a place Rockton people know better than to visit.  The sheriff, Eric Dalton, tells Casey that the council, a mysterious group that controls the community from outside and makes the decisions about who gets in and who doesn’t, sometimes is swayed by monetary factors.  Although people who’ve committed violent crimes aren’t supposed to gain admittance, they sometimes get through if they have enough money.  Harry Powys, the name the deceased was using in Rockton, had obviously bribed his way in.  His crimes, brutal as they were, are matched by the manner of his death.  He was dismembered, and Eric believes Harry was alive when it was done.

The people who live in this community are a varied lot, but of course they all have one thing in common–whatever they did or had done to them in the outside world didn’t allow them to stay there.  An ex-soldier who killed his commanding officer while the latter was asleep, a physician blamed for two deaths, several women fleeing abusive relationships, those are reasons for coming to Rockton.  But now it’s becoming clear that more than one person is living there under false pretenses, that the story he or she has been telling others about the reason for being in Rockton isn’t the true one.

Kelley Armstrong has written a taunt thriller with believable characters.  Casey Duncan is a terrific heroine, devastated by what she did years earlier but determined to be strong now for herself and her friend.  But her strength alone may not be enough to stop the carnage in their new home.

You can read more about Kelley Armstrong at this web site.

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

 

 

 

WANT YOU DEAD by Peter James: Book Review

Detective Inspector Roy Grace is getting married in ten days.  He’s hoping that his caseload will remain quiet until then and for a few days afterwards, when he and Cleo are scheduled to head to Venice for their honeymoon.  Everything looks good until he gets a phone call telling him that a burned corpse has been found on the grounds of the Haywards Heath Golf Club.

The body is that of Karl Murphy, a local physician.  At first it looks like an open-and-shut case of suicide, Karl having left a clear, concise note on the seat of his nearby car.  The note says that his life has lost its meaning since the death of his wife two years earlier and that he hopes his two young sons will someday be able to understand his action.  Roy Grace is finding it difficult to believe that a doctor would kill himself in this horrific way, with pills so easily available to him, but there doesn’t seem to be any other explanation.

At the same time that Karl’s body is being examined by the police, Red Cameron is in her apartment, waiting for him to appear for their dinner date.  At first she’s annoyed by his lateness, then she begins to worry–in the several months they’ve been dating, Karl has never disappointed her.  Phone calls and texts to him go unanswered; when she finally goes to bed, annoyance has reasserted itself, and she’s beginning to have second thoughts about their future together.

Before meeting Karl, Red was in a relationship with Bryce Laurent.  At first, Bryce had been wonderful to her.  Kind, warm, very generous with gifts, he made her feel really special.  But after a few months, a darker side to his personality came through.

As her parents and friends had told her shortly after the two met, he was controlling and violent, traits Red refused to acknowledge at the time.  By the time Bryce turned to physical and sexual violence in order, as he told her, to prove his love and convince her that they truly belonged together, Red finally admitted to herself that he was a dangerous man.

Despite a restraining order that she got against Bryce, Red is always looking over her shoulder.  And with good reason, because the reader finds out almost at once that the murder of Karl Murphy is only the first step in Bryce’s plan to revenge himself on the woman who left him.

Want You Dead is a thriller up to and including the last page.  Told from several vantage points, it allows us into the minds of the police detective, the psychopathic killer, and the fearful yet resourceful woman who is determined to correct the mistakes she’s made and now live life on her own terms.

You can read more about Peter James 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.

 

DIE AGAIN by Tess Gerritsen: Book Review

The powerful Boston team of Rizzoli and Isles is back, working on a murder that spans two continents.  Jane Rizzoli, police detective, and Maura Isles, medical examiner, are brought into a case that seems bizarre from the beginning, but they have no idea of just how strange it’s going to get.

Die Again opens with a safari in Botswana, consisting of a party of three men and four women plus their tracker and guide.  This section of the novel is told by Millie Jacobson, the girlfriend of Richard Renwick, a well-known British novelist.  It was Richard’s idea to go on a safari, the better to write another of his macho adventure books.

Millie has reluctantly come along, but she’s not enjoying herself; her idea of a vacation runs to hotels and spas, not flimsy tents and outdoor “bathrooms.”  But Richard and the others are enjoying themselves until the morning that the remains of their South African guide are found.  He had been killed and eaten, probably by hyenas.

Back in Boston, Jane and her partner Barry Frost are called to the home of an internationally known hunter and taxidermist, Leon Gott.  Surrounded by the many animals he shot and mounted on his walls, Leon’s body is found hanging upside down, his insides removed.  Not a view for the faint of heart.

When Dr. Maura Isles arrives, one look at the eviscerated body tells her something is seriously wrong besides the obvious fact that Leon is dead.  Searching the garage she finds remains, including two hearts (one human, one animal) and two complete sets of lungs.  Leon had received threats in the past, but those had been verbal, never physical.  His wife and only son were dead, and he wasn’t close to any of his neighbors, so no one seems to have a clue what brought about his brutal death.

In addition to working on Leon’s murder, Jane also is trying to help her mother get through a difficult time.  Several years earlier, Jane’s father left his wife for another woman.  Some time later, Jane’s mother fell in love with another man, and they got engaged.  Now her husband wants to return home and let bygones be bygones.  Jane’s brothers are in favor of this and want their parents to reconcile.  It’s obvious to Jane that her mother is very unhappy with the situation, but she’s having a hard time going against her husband and their sons.

Maura is still reeling from the end of her romance with Daniel Brophy, a Catholic priest.  Even though Maura knew that their relationship couldn’t end well, she continues to mourn the loss of the man she loves.

Tess Gerritsen has written another spellbinding novel.  Readers of previous novels in the series and viewers of the television show, now in its sixth season, will want to read Die Again to see Rizzoli and Isles together once more.

You can read more about Tess Gerritsen at this web site.

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

 

 

HALLWAYS IN THE NIGHT by R. C. O’Leary: Book Review

It’s 3:05 a.m., and Atlanta police detective Dave Mackno is anxious for his shift to end.  He’s been watching a house outside Wilson Field, home of the major league Atlanta Barons.  There have been no lights or movement in the house for hours, and Dave is just about to pop his second beer, preparing to drive home in the muggy heat, when a Porsche goes speeding by, doing at least 80 m.p.h.

Because he’s driving his wife’s car, rather than a police cruiser, Dave knows there’s no way to catch up to the Porsche.  To his surprise, however, the sports car doesn’t continue but stops suddenly at the fence outside the baseball field.  This gives Dave his opportunity, and he walks towards the car, intent on forcing the driver out.

When Dave gets close enough to see the car’s license plate, he’s stunned; it’s BIG STK 44.  The Porsche belongs to Remo Centrella, the home run star of the Barons, voted the league’s Most Valuable Player three times 

It appears that Remo’s celebrity has gone to his head, because he refuses Dave’s repeated order to leave his car.  When Remo finally gets out, he infuriates Dave by offering him bribes–first baseball tickets, then money.  It’s obvious to Dave that the ballplayer is high.  When Dave attempts to handcuff him, Remo, fueled by steroids, jumps on him.  It’s a desperate fight that ends with Remo dead and Dave hospitalized with serious injuries.

At first the shooting seems like a clear case of self-defense, but there are influential men who have other ideas.  One is Ray Manning, owner of the Barons.  Although the team was heavily insured against the loss of its home run hitter, Ray is furious to find out that a “felony clause” will invalidate the insurance.  If Remo was trying to kill Dave, his intention to commit a felony would allow the insurance company to pay nothing.  And Ray badly needs that money.

The two other influential men are Georgia’s governor, Frank Durkin, and Atlanta’s district attorney, Maurice Bass.  With a combination of alleged worry about what the killing of a biracial man by a white policeman would do to the city’s image and a huge serving of political self-interest, Frank and Maurice decide that a charge of murder should be brought against Dave.

R. C. O’Leary’s thriller goes back and forth through the years, following Dave’s career.  Combining baseball, racial tensions, backroom politics, and greed, the novel portrays a less-than-ideal picture of people in power and their desire to hang onto that power by any means necessary.  The compelling courtroom scenes and those that follow don’t show the characters in black and white but in shades of gray, similar to real life.  Mr. O’Leary has written about a culture where even the heroes are less than heroic.

You can read more about R. C. O’Leary at this web site.

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

 

 

 

THE ABSENT ONE by Jussi Adler-Olsen: Book Review

These Scandinavian authors certainly know how to freeze their readers’ blood.

Carl Morck has been exiled to Department Q, Copenhagen’s cold case office.  And exiled is the right word, because Department Q is in the police department’s basement, far from the bustle of others doing their work.   However, it’s also far from the higher-ups who might be tempted to oversee Carl’s work, and Carl, ever the loner, likes that just fine.

Due to Carl’s outstanding work in a previous cold case, he’s greeted as a returning hero by his colleagues after his three-week vacation.  His Iraqui assistant, Assad, is delighted to see him, but Carl still isn’t sure how he feels about Assad.  He is sure, however, how he feels about his new secretary, Rose, a police recruit who failed her driver’s test and thus must make do with being a secretary rather than a detective; he’s sure he’s going to take the first opportunity to get her transferred out of his department.

Immediately after Carl’s return to work, a file appears on his desk that contains reports of a double murder that took place in 1987, twenty-five years ago.   A brother and sister were brutally killed in their parents’ vacation home.  There are two strange features about the case:  a man confessed nine years afterward to the killings and has been in prison ever since, and no one will admit to putting the folder in Department Q’s files.

Although there was no discernible motive, a group of students at a local boarding school were suspected of the murders and with involvement in other incidents as well.  There were five males and one female in the group, all of whom except one came from extremely wealthy homes.  The man who confessed to the crimes is Bjarne Thogersen, the only one of the group who came from modest means.

When it came time for the trial, the other students’ fathers were very visible in court, with their high-paid attorneys, and no charges were ever filed against their sons.  Now grown men themselves, the former students have surpassed their own fathers in the accumulation of wealth:  Ditlev Fram, now owner of, among other things, a string of medical facilities specializing in plastic surgery to the rich and famous; Torsten Florin, clothing designer; Ulrik Dyboll, financial wizard; and the late Kristian Wolf, killed by an accidental self-inflicted wound while hunting.  The lone woman, Kirsten-Marie Lassen, has disappeared and hasn’t been seen in years.

Intrigued by the fact that the file on this double killing seems to have come out of nowhere, Carl begins an investigation, spurred on by the fact that the father of the brother and sister killed was a policeman, Henning Jorgensen.  Immediately after seeing his children’s mutilated bodies, Henning went home and turned his gun on himself.  Now there is only the mother left, and her mind and body have been unhinged by this triple tragedy.

The characters in The Absent One are wonderfully drawn.  Carl Morck is a man who wants to be left alone to pursue his cases, but naturally departmental politics interfere.  Assad is learning the ropes as an “assistant assistant detective,” but I’m sure I’m not the only reader who thinks there’s more to this recent immigrant than meets the eye.  And when Rose is introduced, she of the dyed jet-black hair and braying laugh, we know there will be fireworks between her and Carl.

You can read more about Jussi Adler-Olsen at his web site.

A DEATH IN SUMMER by Benjamin Black: Book Review

In Dublin, newspaper magnate Richard Jewell is sitting on a chair in his sumptuous study.  Well, his body is sitting on the chair; much of his head is elsewhere.  There’s a shotgun in his hands, but the police aren’t sure it’s really a suicide.

A Death in Summer brings readers back in time more than half a century.  Diamond Dick, as Jewell was known to friends and foes alike, was a tough businessman; like a diamond, he had more than one facet to his persona.  He was ruthless, but he also gave generously to various charities, although no one could say for certain if that was because he truly believed in their aims or if he wanted to better solidify his place in Dublin society.

Inspector Hackett is called in to investigate the death.  Francoise d’Aubigny, Jewell’s widow, professes to be “baffled” by her husband’s death, but she certainly doesn’t appear saddened or distraught.  She explains to Hackett that she and her husband had lived separate lives and she doesn’t understand, or says she doesn’t, why her husband’s death by suicide should interest anyone except herself, their eight-year-old daughter, and Jewell’s sister Dannie.  But then Hackett tells Francoise that he thinks her husband did not kill himself.

Hackett calls in the state pathologist, but because that doctor is ill Hackett’s friend Dr. Quirke comes instead.  The two have worked together before, and it’s not long before Quirke is doing some investigating on his own, with special attention paid to the beautiful and seductive Francoise.

Hackett learns that the deceased’s estate manager, Maguire, had served a prison term for manslaughter; that Jewell’s business competitor, Carlton Sumner, was trying to take over Jewell’s newspaper empire; that Teddy Sumner, Carlton’s son, who had been sent to Canada to avoid prison time has now returned to Dublin; and that the marriage between the Jewells was a marriage in name only.  Plus there are millions of euros at stake from various Jewell enterprises.  Plenty of motives for murder.

An interesting sidelight is the fact that Richard Jewell was Jewish, although he didn’t practice his religion, and that he gave huge amounts to St. Christopher’s, a Catholic boarding school.  Maguire, the estate manager, spent part of his childhood at St. Christopher’s;  Marie Bergin, the Jewells’ former maid, had worked there.  And Quirke had spent a year in the orphanage before being sent elsewhere.   Is there some sinister connection?

Benjamin Black has assembled a fascinating cast of characters in A Death in Summer Since this is the fourth novel featuring Quirke but the first one I’ve read, there’s a lot of back story that I’m not familiar with.  Dr. Quirke is a protagonist I’d like to get to know better, a man whose name certainly describes his unusual and often difficult personality.

Thanks go to my friend Kate, who recommended this series.  I look forward to doing some catch-up reading about Hackett, Quirke, and the Dublin of the 1950s.

You can read more about Benjamin Black, also known as the prize-winning novelist John Banville, at his web site.

SPIES OF THE BALKANS by Alan Furst: Book Review

Salonika, Greece, in October 1940. World War II has been going on for a year, and Greece is not yet involved.  But the population knows that the invasion by the Nazi or Fascist troops cannot be far behind.  By 1941, Germany has overrun Slovakia, Hungary, Roumania (the old spelling), and Bulgaria.  Greece, with its huge coastline and its proximity to the Balkans, cannot be allowed to remain neutral.

Constantine Zannis, known as Costa, is a police detective in the port city of Salonika. He is involved with a British woman who is ostensibly in Salonika to run a ballet school, but that is merely her cover.  In fact, she is an espionage agent, a spy, and she is given orders to return to England as soon as it becomes obvious that Greece will soon by invaded by the Nazis.

Her replacement, Francis Escovil, has heard how Costa was able to help a German-Jewish woman slip two young children out of Germany and into Turkey.  Now Escovil wants Costa to give him the names of people in Germany who are working against the Nazis.  He doesn’t want to apply pressure on Costa, doesn’t think that will work, but he wants those names.  And Costa doesn’t want to give them to him, he just wants to go on helping Jews escape in his own way.

The characters in Spies of the Balkans are international. In addition to Costa (Greek) and his lover Roxanne (British), the reader is introduced to Celebi, the Turkish consul; Emilia Krebs, a Jewish woman helping others out of Germany; Salmi Pal, a Hungarian criminal living in Salonika; Ivan Lazareff, a friend in Bulgaria.  All these disparate people are working willingly or not to stop the Nazis.

Spies of the Balkans is a look back to the beginning of the Second World War in Greece. It was a poor country, very much unprepared to face the enormous armies of Germany and Italy.  But its people were fearless fighters, and the overwhelming odds against them did not stop them from trying to protect their homeland from invasion.

The novel traces the steps taken by the various individuals to get Jews and other resisters out of Germany and the occupied countries.  Money was needed, of course, to obtain forged papers–birth certificates, visas–and to be used for bribes, when necessary.  What is fascinating is those who helped people escape without asking for, or accepting, money.

When Emilia Krebs comes to Costa to ask for his help in getting two children out of Germany and into neutral Turkey, she says, “I can never thank you enough.  For helping me.”  “You don’t have to thank me,” he said.  “Who could say no?”  The goodness and naivete in his statement still resonate more than seventy years later.

Alan Furst has written a book that is difficult to put down. Each clandestine operation that Costa takes part in is different from those before it, and each one depends not only on him but others.   One misreading by Costa of someone he has asked for help and his life and those of the refugees would be forfeit.

Calling Spies of the Balkans a thriller is calling it by its true name. It’s a great read from first page to last, and that’s no hyperbole.  The last page will bring you to tears.

You can read more about Alan Furst at his web site.