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Posts Tagged ‘mass murder’

THE GOOD KILLER by Harry Dolan: Book Review

Sean and Molly are an attractive couple, leading quiet lives in Houston.  They have few friends but seem content just being with each other.  This happy life very likely would have continued for them if not for the fact that Sean got a pebble in his boot while walking in Houston’s Bear Creek Park.

That meant a trip to the city’s Galleria Mall to purchase a new pair, which Sean does while Molly is off to Montana for a five-day retreat featuring horseback riding and yoga.  Sean isn’t interested in either of those things, in addition to the fact that it’s only for women, but before Molly leaves they go over over “the rules.”

The rules stipulate that they never return to their former home, they don’t contact any of the people they knew before they moved to Houston, and they don’t talk about something that they’ve buried in the woods.  But because of the need to buy new boots, all these precautions turn out to have been in vain.

Sean is sitting on a chair in the mall when he hears a series of gunshots, twelve in all.  Around him people are falling to the ground, either bleeding or displaying the stillness of death.  Without conscious thought, Sean rises and pulls out his Glock, taking aim at the gunman; his first shot enters the man’s heart, the second his brain.

Of course, even during this terrifying event, cell phones are out with people taking photos and videos of the carnage, the killer, and the man who took  him down.  Although Sean gets into his car to get away from the mall, those photos and videos are being uploaded and shared faster than he can drive.   And a man whose TV is tuned to CNN sees Sean’s photo with the caption underneath reading PERSON OF INTEREST.   Yes, Jimmy Harper thinks, he certainly is.

Harper is one of two men searching for Sean, the other is Adam Khadduri.  On the surface the two men couldn’t be more different, as Harper is the owner of a small garage with a reputation for “sending a message” to whose who didn’t pay protection to him or otherwise didn’t meet their obligations; Khadduri is a “businessman” who is looking for something he believes Molly and Sean took from him.  But the bottom line is, they both want Sean.

What follows is a novel filled with cat-and-mouse chases, escapes from pursuers by the skin of one’s teeth, and a sense of menace so strong it’s almost palatable.  Harry Dolan, whose thrillers keep readers at the edge of their seats, has written another novel in which the “bad guys” are not the only ones with flaws.  His characters are realistic and human, his plots outstanding,  and The Good Killer will make you go back to his previous mysteries in case you missed them.  I’ve blogged about two of them, and you can read my posts of Bad Things Happen and The Man in the Crooked Hat on this blog.

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.


THE MAN FROM BEIJING by Henning Mankell: Book Review

In a major departure from his Inspector Kurt Wallender series, Henning Mankell takes us to four continents in this thriller–Europe, Asia, Africa, and North America.  So skillfully does he write, it seems as if Mankell has actually been to all of the above places at the times the events he’s writing about occur, although that’s obviously impossible; the first Chinese segment and the North American segment take place three quarters of a century before Mankell was born.

The Man from Beijing begins with the massacre of eighteen elderly people and one child in a tiny village in Sweden.  A photographer is the first person to happen on the scene.  Frightened and stunned he drives off and crashes his car, but before he dies he manages to impart the news of the killings.  The police arrive in the village, of course, and they and everyone in the country are appalled and bewildered by the carnage. Who and why are the questions on everyone’s lips.

Birgitta Roslin is a judge in a city far from Hesjovallen where the killings took place.  Although she, like everyone else, is horrified when she hears about the murders, she would seem to have no personal ties to the village.  But the next day, when she reads the names of the victims, she is reminded that her late mother had lived in Hesjovallen and realizes that two of the people killed were her mother’s foster parents.  She contacts the police and makes a visit to the town, scarcely aware of why she is doing so.

Once there, Roslin gets a cool reception from the local police who are overwhelmed investigating the biggest bloodbath in modern Sweden. At night in a nearby hotel, unable to sleep, Roslin breaks into the cottage where her mother lived and takes a diary from one of the drawers.  The diary was written by a man she assumes to be a relative of the Andren family who took her mother in.  “JA” had emigrated to the United States from Sweden in the 1860s and had become a foreman for one of the railroad companies engaged in building the tracks for the trains that crossed the continent.  His diary shows JA to be a tough, brutal overseer, bigoted against the freed slaves, American Indians, Irish immigrants, and Chinese indentured servants who are laying the tracks.  And it’s the Chinese/Swedish connection that forms the plot of The Man from Beijing.

In each section of the book, whether it takes place in Sweden, the United States, China, or Mozambique, Mankell makes the reader feel what it’s like to be there. It takes a while for the connections between these various points to appear, and I must confess that not everything is made clear.

I do have some “nitpicking” with this novel.  The reader can understand the motive for the crimes, but I didn’t find the motive as convincing as I would have liked.  I also felt that Birgitta Roslin was a bit too naive, too passive for a woman with her life experiences.  SPOILER ALERT: And I thought the way her life was saved was not believable.

These caveats aside, The Man from Beijing is a page-turner in the best sense.  It has a terrific plot, believable characters, and a sense that many of the political beliefs that Roslin and other characters have come straight from Mankell’s heart.  Like every other book by this author, it’s a mystery worthy of your time.

You can read more about Henning Mankell at his web site.