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Posts Tagged ‘abductions’

THE DOLL’S HOUSE by M. J. Arlidge: Book Review

Detective Inspector Helen Grace is called to a remote portion of a Southampton beach to investigate the corpse found buried in the sand.  It’s the body of a young woman, pale and emaciated, with a bluebird tattoo on her right shoulder.  The force’s forensic officer, already on the scene, believes that the woman’s burial is not recent, that she could have been there for as long as two or three years.

What makes the scene even more painful for Helen is her immediate feeling that whoever placed the body there had done so with the knowledge that it wouldn’t be easily found.  Thus, she thinks, this is not the killer’s first victim and possibly, she fears, not his last.

Miles away in a basement is another young woman.  Ruby has no idea where she is or how she has gotten there.  The room is dark, without windows, and very cold.  Her last memory is of coming home to her apartment from a night out drinking with friends, gulping down a glass of water, and then….But how did she get from there to here?  And where is her inhaler, something she is never without?

At the same time as she tries to identify the body found in the sand, Helen is pursuing another search, a personal one.  She is trying to find her nephew Robert Stonehill, the only child of her sister Marianne.  Robert disappeared after learning the truth about his mother nearly a year earlier, and Helen has been unable to find any trace of him.

Using police computers and the confidential information on them to look for Robert is most definitely against the rules and would cause Helen serious problems if she were found out.  But she’s desperate to get information.  Her attempt to go through the proper channels has been stymied by her station chief, Ceri Harwood, a woman intensely jealous of Helen’s successes in past investigations who will do almost anything, legal or not, to discredit her subordinate.

Helen’s childhood was traumatically dysfunctional, and she brings a lot of heavy baggage with her to her personal life and her official position.  But none of that interferes with her drive to succeed or her ability to uncover clues that other detectives have missed.  If only she could regulate her personal life as well as she does her professional one.

I reviewed Eeny Meeny last year and thought it was one of the best mysteries of 2015.  Mr. Arlidge continues the high suspense in The Doll’s House, the third novel in this series, as well as giving readers a better look into what makes Detective Helen Grace tick.

You can read more about M. J. Arlidge on various sites on the web.

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

THEREBY HANGS A TAIL by Spencer Quinn: Book Review

I really didn’t want to like this book.  But I couldn’t help it.  And I’ll tell you why.

The title should have given me the hint, but I didn’t get it at first.  There’s a gorgeous cover photo of the head of a dog, a big dog, looking at a butte in the desert.  When you connect the cover to the title, you’ve got it…this “Chet and Bernie Mystery” is about a dog and his man.  Chet is the dog, and he’s also the narrator of Thereby Hangs a Tail.

Wait!  Before you stop reading, let me say that this is one of the cleverest mysteries I’ve read.  I’m not a big fan of books that feature anthropomorphic animals.  If I want animals that talk and think like humans, I’ll watch the Disney channel.  But I fell in love with Chet.  In a big way.

Bernie is a private detective, specializing in missing persons.  He’s asked by a friend on the police force to bodyguard Kingsbury’s First Lady Belle, a.k.a. Princess, a prize-winning dog that is entered in the Balmoral Dog Show that is coming to town.  Her owner received a threatening letter in the mail, and she wants to hire Bernie to guard Princess to the tune of $2000 a day, a hefty sum given the state of Bernie’s finances and his proclivity for investing in Bolivian tin mines.  But before the guarding can actually start, Bernie goes from hired to fired in less than a day, and the following day Princess and her owner are abducted.

All of this is narrated by Chet, a huge dog of mysterious lineage.  He idolizes Bernie and has an uncanny (is that word related to canine?) ability to come up with just the right expressions to put us in the picture.  It’s almost like listening to a person who doesn’t speak English well or is a recent arrival in America trying to figure out the meaning of conversations/slang swirling around him.

When Chet hears someone say, “They didn’t see diddley,” it catches his attention.  “Bernie was a big Bo Diddley fan…Was Bo Diddley a suspect in the…case?”  Bernie says,”They say Wild Bill Hickok rode through here…”  Chet thinks, “Hickok again? Was he the perp?  Perps had a hard time going straight.  That was something you learned in this business.”

Okay, so maybe this book isn’t for you.  But there’s a real mystery here besides the kidnapping of the Countess di Borghese and the dognapping of Princess.  Bernie’s romantic interest, a newspaper reporter, goes missing while following the Princess story; Chet and Bernie are separated and Chet is sold by a pair of wandering, stoned hippies to a man who wants to take him to Alaska; a sheriff and his deputy are being more of a hindrance than a help in the case, and so it goes.

When you get tired of blood and guts, give Slim Jims and dog biscuits a try.  I think you’ll like them.

You can read more about Spencer Quinn at this web site.