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Posts Tagged ‘missing person’

THE MIDNIGHT LINE by Lee Child: Book Review

It’s pretty safe to say that wherever Jack Reacher goes, trouble will find him.  Even as he follows his usual random method of travel, going to a bus station and taking the first bus that leaves regardless of its direction, somehow Reacher will find himself in the middle of a situation that needs his special skills.  And a quick stop in a small town in Wisconsin proves no different.

Having just come to the end of a very brief romantic interlude–too brief to call it a relationship in any sense of the word–Reacher hops on the first bus out of Milwaukee.  It’s heading northwest, but as he has no particular destination in mind, that direction will work as well as any other.

And he would have continued on that route until the bus reached its destination except that when the bus halts for a rest stop, Reacher goes out to stretch his legs.  Passing a pawnshop, he glances in the window and sees the items one usually finds in such a store–musical instruments, small electronics, and class rings.  But a closer look at the rings shows that one of them is from West Point, Jack’s alma mater, and its size shows it belonged to a female alum.  Knowing how difficult it is to graduate from the military academy, Jack wonders what the circumstances could be that would explain the necessity of pawning an item of such personal value.

After getting the name of the person who pawned the ring, Jack finds the man, nicknamed Jimmy Rat, where the shop owner said he would be–at a nearby bar where a number of Harley-Davidsons are parked.  Jimmy is a small guy, but he’s surrounded by a group of seven men.  Jimmy refuses to tell Reacher where he got the ring, and a fight becomes imminent.  The nine men leave the bar to fight outside, and in less than five minutes only Jimmy and Jack are still standing.  Jimmy finally gives Jack the name and location where the ring came from, but that information comes with a warning.  “This is not a guy you want to meet.”  “Neither were you,” Reacher says, “but here I am anyway.”

In The Midnight Line, Reacher is not alone.  He’s joined by Terry Bramall, a former F.B.I. agent who is working for Jane Mackenzie, an Illinois woman searching for her missing sister.  In addition, there’s Gloria Nakamura, a detective in the small Rapid City, South Dakota police department that has long been aware of a criminal enterprise led by local businessman Arthur Scorpio but has been unable to prove his guilt.  Now, the search for the missing sister, the owner of the West Point ring, and the illegal activities of Scorpio will meet, and it will take the combined efforts of Reacher, Mackenzie, Bramall, and Nakamura  to bring the case to its conclusion.

As is true of all of Lee Child’s thrillers, The Midnight Line is a compulsive read.  You know that Jack Reacher will prevail in the end, that there will be violence and murders, but that Jack and the person/people he’s protecting will be saved.  But that won’t stop you from holding your breath and reading until the very last word.

You can read more about Lee Child 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 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.



IN SEARCH OF MERCY by Michael Ayoob: Book Review

Dexter Bolzjak was a Pittsburgh high school ice hockey phenom. College scouts came to see him play in goal, and the night of the state championship was his golden opportunity to shine.  The score was zero-zero in the third period when slap, slap, slap–three goals slid past Bolzjak in the final eight minutes.  That was the end of his dream of a college scholarship, but his night only got worse from that point on.

Years later, when we meet Bolzjak, his mother is long gone; he hasn’t spoken to his father, who lives in the same neighborhood as he does, for six years; he works in a vegetable market separating good onions from bad ones; and he lives in a windowless basement in the house of his only friend.  Not much of a life.

Michael Ayoob’s first novel takes the reader to some very, very dark places. The night he lost the game was the night Bolzjak realized that his parents were splitting up and the night that he was abducted by four masked men and sodomized.  Not surprisingly, his life went downhill from then on.

While Bolzjak is eating lunch one day at a restaurant, in walks Lou Kashon, part-owner of a Pittsburgh food warehouse.  With bloodshot eyes and filthy clothes, Kashon doesn’t look like a man who has either self-respect or money.  But he lays a $100 bill in front of Bolzjak and walks out.  The next day Bolzjak sees him again, and this time Kashon tells him to come by his house–he’s got a job for him.

Bolzjak already has two jobs, to his way of thinking.  Number 2 is his job at the veggie warehouse; number 1 is building a shelter of straw, sticks, and bricks to keep himself from remembering the night of his attack and its aftermath.

And the job Kashon wants Boljzak to take is anything but simple. He tells Bolzjak that years ago, just before World War II, he was in love with a local girl and she with him.  They were engaged, and she was going to wait for him to come home from overseas.  The local girl didn’t stay local for long, though, and she didn’t wait.  She changed her name from Agnes Zabrowski to Mercy Carnahan and became one of Hollywood’s most famous movie stars.  She was glamorous, sexy, mysterious–all the things that made an actress a star in the 1940s and ’50s.  And then she walked off a stage and disappeared, and no one has heard from her or seen her since.  Certainly not Lou Kashon.

Now he wants Bolzjak to find Mercy Carnahan. Although Kashon lives in a house with holes in the floors, filthy dishes in the sink, and dead cats in the freezer, he also has a drawer full of money in his bedroom.  Find Mercy Carnahan, he tells Bolzjak, and it’s all yours.

In Search of Mercy is a novel of self-discovery, as well as a mystery.  It’s the story of Dexter Bolzjak trying to come to terms with why his life has gone so far off the rails.  Has he been using the horrific events of the championship night as an excuse to do the things he’s done–drop out of school, estrange himself from his father, lose a relationship because of the nightmares that have lingered for years and for which he refuses to get help?  Or is all that simply beyond his ability to change?

Michael Ayoob’s novel is a voyage that is dark, dark, dark. It takes the reader into places that are truly uncomfortable, not only for his hero but for other characters in the book as well.  But it’s well worth the trip.  In Search of Mercy won the 2009 Private Eye Writers of America award for best first private eye novel.

You can read more about Michael Ayoob at his web site.