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Posts Tagged ‘police’

RAGGEDYLAND by Paul J. Heald: Book Review

Auction Hunters and Storage Wars are two very popular shows that have been on television in recent years.  In such programs people bid, sight unseen, for the contents of storage lockers or units, hoping to find valuables that were left behind when the renters no longer paid the fee to keep their items safe and private.

James Murphy is a Georgia-based journalist and a bit of a gambler, so it’s quite logical that he puts in a bid on the show Shocker Locker, hoping to make his investment pay off.  However, what James finds when he opens the locker is definitely more of a shock than he expected.

Inside, along with a profusion of other items, is a magazine titled Spartacus, featuring disturbing photos of men and small boys in compromising sexual positions.  James calls his former lover, Melanie Wilkerson, a federal prosecutor with whom he worked on a previous case, and she agrees to contact the FBI, as the sexual exploitation of children is a federal crime.

James and Melanie contact Stanley Hopkins, a friend and college professor of sociology whose area of specialty is the sex industry, its victims, and its perpetrators.  Stanley lends his expertise to the search to find the former owner of the locker, but in the meantime he meets Amy, a teenage girl who has flown cross-country from North Carolina to California to rekindle a brief romance with a fellow student she met at a Duke University summer school class.

When she discovers that the interest was definitely more on her side than his, Amy knows no one else in California to turn to other than Stanley.  And through a series of complicated events, the two of them begin a trip from Stanley’s home to Georgia to work with James and Melanie on locating the man whose locker began the story.

The story has its roots in Georgia, moves to California, returns to Georgia, moves to England, and goes back to Georgia for its finale.  A high school principal, the preacher of a fundamentalist church, his son, and the man who had rented the storage locker all come under the scrutiny of James, Melanie, and Stanley, as they discover that the photos are but the tip of the iceberg in an even more disturbing story.

Paul J. Heald has written a terrific mystery, a strong story laced with humor and humanity.  Raggedyland is the third novel in the Clarkeston Chronicle series, and I have downloaded the first two–Courting Death and Cotton:  A Novel, and can’t wait to begin reading.

In addition to writing novels, Mr. Heald is a professor at the University of Illinois School of Law, specializing in copyright law and intellectual property.  You can read more about the author 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.


AFTER SHE’S GONE by Camilla Grebe: Book Review

Just over two years ago I blogged about a Swedish mystery, The Ice Beneath Her, by Camilla Grebe.  It was a novel so well-written, so extraordinary in its plot, that I included it as one of the books in my Fall 2018 BOLLI course, WHODUNIT?:  MURDER IN SCANDINAVIA.  I also chose it as one of my favorite mysteries of 2017.

After She’s Gone is the follow-up to that novel.  This time the locale is the small and not-very-exciting town of Ormberg, Sweden.  It’s 2009, and three teenagers, two boys and a girl, head for the town’s forest to do some underage drinking.  Malin needs to relieve herself, so she cautiously goes a bit deeper into the woods; she’s a bit uneasy because of its reputation as the place where the Ghost Child lives.

Squatting down, she touches what at first feels like some type of bowl, surrounded by moss.  But a closer touch reveals that the bowl is actually a skull and the moss is human hair.

Jumping ahead to the present day, we meet Jake.  He’s a lonely teenager, mourning the death of his mother, and tormented by what he calls The Secret:  he likes to dress in women’s clothing.  On this particular night, after his sister and father have gone out, he goes to his late mother’s closet and puts on one of her evening dresses and a pair of her high heels and goes for a walk where no one will sees him, in that same forest.

It’s dark and a cold rain is falling when Jake hears a noise and then sees a woman crawling on the forest floor.  She’s covered with scratches, her hair is dripping wet, and she’s barefoot.  “Help me,” she says, and despite his misgivings Jake approaches her.  “Who are you?” he asks, and she says, “Hanne.”

Just then he hears a car on the road outside the woods, and very slowly the woman makes her way toward it.  In his fear of being discovered, Jake hides in the trees while Hanne makes her way to the car and after a brief conversation with the driver gets in.  But she has left something behind, something that Jake picks up.  It’s a small brown leather notebook.

The following day we meet Malin again, now a police officer in Stockholm who has been sent to Ormberg, her home town, to join the police team interviewing Hanne.  This is not just another middle-aged woman who lost her way in the forest; she is, in fact, a legend:  Hanne Lagerlind-Schön, Sweden’s foremost criminal profiler.  She is apparently suffering from dementia and can’t tell the investigators why she was in the forest or how she got there.  And where is Peter Lindgren, her partner both personally and professionally, who never leaves her side?

After She’s Gone is a fascinating glimpse into life in a town that, much like Hanne, has lost its way.  Its major industries, the ironworks and the sawmill, have closed, its young people are moving away, and the town’s long-time residents are having difficulty dealing with the newly-arrived immigrants from Arab countries.  As Malin thinks, “They get plenty of help.  Help that the people of Ormberg never received…there was no help for us when we needed it…Why can’t they go to some other place?”  But she doesn’t say that aloud.

Camilla Grebe has written several novels with her sister; After She’s Gone is her second solo mystery.  You don’t have to read The Ice Beneath Her to enjoy this novel, but I highly recommend that you double your pleasure and read both of them.  They are outstanding.

You can read more about Camilla Grebe 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.