Posts Tagged mystery
The Other Woman by Hank Phillippi Ryan. Publisher: Forge (September 4, 2012). Mystery/thriller. Hardcover. 416 pages. ISBN 978-0-7653-3257-8.
Every time I review a mystery, I say that I don’t read that many mysteries and it’s true. Of the 60-100 books I read each year, only about 10% are mystery/thrillers. One of my favorite mysteries ever is The Street Lawyer by John Grisham. I lived in D.C. for one happy year while attending graduate J-school at the University of Maryland at College Park. I spend a ton of time exploring D.C. and not just the touristy places but Adams Morgan and Dupont Circle and downtown clubs etc. Grisham’s writing deftly took me back to all those places. I mention this because author Hank Phillippi Ryan fails to illustrate Boston for the reader.
Her novel could’ve been in any city. At the end she states that she “tweaked” some of Boston’s geography to protect the “innocent.” I don’t approve. There’s no need. Why can’t Mt. Auburn Cemetery be mentioned or certain well-known streets? She’d go from reporter Jane Ryland’s Corey Road apartment [a real Brookline street] to some made up streets. It all rather confused me. The novel would’ve been all that much better if she’d detailed Boston. Phillippi Ryan certainly knows Boston and could have energized it. Instead Boston becomes a dry and rather bland city that no one would even want to visit. What’s the point in even setting it here? Make up the city altogether then. Either fictionalize it all or none of it. It’s confusing to go back and forth.
The Other Woman is a fantastic mystery layered with nuances and new developments. It starts with several unsolved murders by bridges along the Charles River. Reporter Jane Ryland, who used to be a hotshot TV reporter, made a dire mistake in protecting a source who then disappeared. Ryland looked wrong. She lost her prestigious post. Now she works at a newspaper. She’s trying to make that a success and regain respect among her peers. It’s campaign season and her editor assigned her a fluff piece about a Senate hopeful’s wife. As a seasoned investigative reporter Ryland sees more to the story. She focuses in on “the other woman” she sees in some campaign pictures. Throughout the case and the novel, the other woman shifts and Phillippi Ryan’s taut first-rate thriller keeps the reader guessing. My only other concern for future novels, besides the setting, is that Phillippi Ryan focuses on character development. We really didn’t learn that much about Jane or her crush/cop friend Jake. If the reader isn’t invested in Jane Ryland it won’t matter how fascinating the next case.
FTC Disclosure: I received this for review from the publisher.
A Cup Full of Midnight by Jaden Terrell. Publisher: The Permanent Press (August 2012). Mystery/thriller. Hardcover. 288 pages. ISBN 978-1-57962-225-1.
“The photo showed a naked young man stretched across a pentagram drawn in blood. His own blood, according to the lab results. Drawn postmortem, though how you could sacrifice a guy who’d already bled out was beyond me.”
Nashville. Horses. Country music. Murder? It worked in Jaden Terrell’s debut and it works in her second novel A Cup Full of Midnight. Welcome back private investigator Jared McKean, a sensitive tough guy which should appeal to a wide swath of readers. His housemate has AIDS, his son has Down’s Syndrome, he’s divorced, loves his ex and respects his ex’s new husband and new situation. He likes to ride his horse in his down time. He’s been a decent advisor/ father-figure to his teenaged gay nephew Josh.
Unfortunately his nephew’s been involved with a much older man, Sebastian Parker. Twice his age. Not really the best first relationship for a confused teen who’s just dealing with coming out to his parents while establishing his individuality and sense of self-worth. All the confusing things teens go through anyway. Then to be preyed on by a more experienced older man promulgates his issues with his parents. Draws a wedge between them. Josh recently broke up with this guy who apparently was a vampire.
Josh attempted suicide by slitting his wrists in a warm tub of water. Jared found him in time. Now Josh wants his uncle to find out who murdered his former lover-boyfriend. Of course Jared will do anything for his nephew if only to protect his nephew from further harm and hurting himself anymore.
Author Jaden Terrell takes the reader on a twisted ride through Nashville’s darker streets and seedier lifestyles in which people think they’re vampires and witches and demons. In practicing these dark arts what do these people intend to accomplish? Why did Sebastian Parker end up killed as he did? Is Jaden’s nephew involved? Is he in further danger? Plenty of details and descriptions take you right inside the ritualistic alliance. Terrific characters and a disturbing mystery makes for a solid summer page-turner.
Death in a Wine Dark Sea by Lisa King. Publisher: The Permanent Press (June 22, 2012). Mystery/suspense. Hardcover. 352 pages. ISBN 978-1-57962-282-4.
After her best friend’s much older and rather shady husband, millionaire Martin Wingo, goes missing [and shortly turns up dead] aboard a yacht immediately following the wedding, wine columnist Jean Ahlquist becomes engulfed in the mystery despite her dislike for the groom. She’s doing it for her friend and to satiate her own curiosity. She didn’t particularly care for the arrogant Wingo and his less than legitimate business dealings. The opinionated, independent Jean joins up with Wingo’s former techie, the very young and super geeky Zeppo. The two are a strange pair but it works. As they connect the pieces, their own lives become imperiled.
The best aspect of Death in a Wine Dark Sea is that Jean is strong and unconventional. She’s Mad Men’s Peggy in Joan’s body. I really enjoyed the main characters. The mystery revolved around too many subjects—business associates, ex-wives, mistresses and then once the reader finds out about Zeppo’s past that gets brought in– and it became confusing at times.
I just kept reading and it all worked out in the end without having to flip back and forth too often. Luckily I wanted to know what happened. I wanted Jean to get to the truth. I wanted to see how she’d fare in the end. I became invested in Jean’s journey from the beginning which is part of the secret to creating a quality character. I’ve found that if I don’t stress too much then it all unravels if there’s a skilled writer behind the story. Author Lisa King certainly holds a lot of promise in the mystery genre. If you’re a wine connoisseur or enjoy the occasional glass of wine, you’ll find it ludicrous or delightful as everything Jean eats gets paired with wine illuminated with commentary.
purchase at Amazon: Death in a Wine Dark Sea
The Lies Have It , by Jill Edmondson. Publisher: Iguana (November 2011). Mystery. Paperback, p. 252
Ex-band-member [who still happily drums in her spare time or to let off steam] turned PI Sasha Jackson ends up with the case of a murdered BDSM party organizer. The leather, whips, chains and lace type of affair. Sasha works the party with her friend Jessica. Early the next morning, someone shoots and kills an assless-chaps-wearing Ian. The bar’s owner asks Sasha to look into the case as he fears a decline in business. Did Ian’s BDSM lifestyle turn too violent and out of control or did something else happen? After some digging, resourceful Sasha finds that Toronto politics and kinky sex parties collide.
Edmondson thoroughly researches whatever she focuses on for the case. She describes Toronto like someone who lives in Toronto and loves Toronto. The good areas and the not so good areas. By reading a Sasha Jackson mystery the reader gets a true sense of place.
Toronto has some nice stretches of waterfront. Ashbridge’s Bay and Scarborough Bluffs in the east end are lovely, and Harbourfront, at the base of downtown, is pretty and vibrant, especially in summertime.
I’m not the typical mystery reader who reads mysteries the majority of the time and frequents the mystery section of the bookstores or library. I enjoy every John Grisham and the occasional Harlen Coben page-turner. It’s diverting to read a mystery to stir things up a bit. Author Jill Edmondson created a great character in Sasha Jackson. This makes me want to keep reading. Sasha keeps me in the pages. She’s honest, gutsy, liberal and independent (despite living at home with her brother and father). I can relate to her in so many ways. Other ways (her excessive drinking) I can’t.
This time around, Sasha seems quite hung up on attorney Derek. He’s out of town on a case but every time she mentions him she softens a bit too much for my liking. She also makes a point to state that she can still flirt with other men, appreciate good-looking guys etc. But I didn’t completely believe the Sasha-is-still-as-independent-minded-with-Derek-as-without. Or maybe just in a steady relationship as not in one. Of course I’m not suggesting that feminists don’t appreciate monogamy, relationships or marriage. Luckily there’s way more Sasha than there’s Sasha and Derek so I could forgive it and enjoy the twists in The Lies Have It.
Blood and Groom , by Jill Edmondson. Publisher: Dundurn Press (2009). Mystery. Paperback, 256 pages.
The navy linen slacks and white silk blouse I had on was my standard job interview uniform, from back in the days of yore, whenever I had looked for a real job, which was rarely. I think I had always been destined to work for myself. Something about rules and office politics and playing well with others had never clicked for me.
Sasha Jackson is one of the best literary characters I’ve discovered of late. She’s an edgy and unconventional ex-musician turned private investigator. I completely related to her artistic sensibilities, individuality and opinionated nature. After quitting her band and boyfriend, Sasha set up her own shop while working as a phone-sex operator on the side. She doesn’t particularly like working for other people or sticking to the typical 9-to-5 hours. In Blood and Groom, a brash art dealer hires Sasha to find out who killed her ex-fiancé.
Canadian author Jill Edmondson spins a marvelous yarn with a biting sense of humor. She shines a bright light on Toronto and uses some fabulous phrasing—“you have a pharmacopoeia cornucopia.” Biting humor, pop references and colorful characters make Blood and Groom a fun read.
Title: Blood of My Brother
Author: James LePore
Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Story Plant, The (December 28, 2010)
I don’t read a lot of thrillers. I’m a closet fan of James Patterson’s Women’s Murder Club series and I read everything John Grisham writes. Other than that, every once in a while I get in the mood for a semi-mindless page turning mystery which hovers between clandestine military operations and something contrived, simplistic, petty. I don’t like too much gore. I’m not a fan of serial killer mysteries. Blood of My Brother is about two lifelong best friends. Attorney Jay Cassio and Dan Del Colliano grew up rough and tumble in Newark, New Jersey. Several years ago, Jay’s parents were killed in an airplane crash and Dan’s support further strengthened their bond. When Dan is murdered in a professional-looking hit, Jay immediately begins to search for answers. While investigating, Jay becomes entangled with a lovely Mexican woman with [naturally] a mysterious past, drugs, money laundering and sex trade [also very South of the Border]. Blood of My Brother dragged at times with too many unnecessary details and a tired premise.
This is all for the good, I attempt to reassure myself. Melanie suspects Brad was on the trail of . . . something. Now the three of us are going to continue his quest, and if we’re lucky (as we often are), we’ll dig up the journalistic treasure at the end of the trail. Brad would have wanted it that way. After all, he sent me that e-mail. And it must be important to Melanie, too, or she wouldn’t have let us come back to her house on the very day her husband’s body was found.
PRIME TIME introduces us to 46-year-old investigative television reporter Charlotte “Charlie” McNally, an indomitable, uncompromising, clever, and dedicated reporter. She’s not without her faults and that makes her someone everyone can relate to: she worries about her career [aka the next big story], aging in a field of young, blonde whipper-snappers [television journalism can be cruel like that], her lack of a romantic life and being over 45.
Writing with riveting details, Emmy and Agatha Award-winning television reporter for Boston’s WHDH-TV, Hank Phillippi Ryan deftly allows readers an all-access pass into the cutthroat world of television journalism where you’re only as good as your current story. PRIME TIME contains a multitude of twists to keep you guessing right to the last page. Ryan succeeds in crafting quite the page-turner.
Charlie is determined and scrappy and instantly someone you want as your friend. She’s that type of woman who would go above and beyond to help you solve or fix any problem that you have and that’s a true blue, special friend. She’s devoted to her producer Franklin. Charlie’s investigative journalism skills prove exceptional on this mysterious case which begins with a strange email and turns into a case of corporate fraud, murder, and imminent danger to Charlie and Franklin as they pursue the truth. Not only is PRIME TIME a fantastic mystery but it provides a compelling insider’s view of television journalism. PRIME TIME is the first in the Charlotte McNally series and I cannot wait to dig in to the next few novels to find out more about this layered, flawed journalist.
Author: Amy MacKinnon
Publisher: Three Rivers Press; 1 edition (August 11, 2009)
Review source: publisher
If I were a different woman, I could tell Mike everything. That life is complex and messy, filled with cruelties beyond even his experiences. I could try to explain what it is to live among the dead, to bear witness to their last struggles for life, fighting for one more breath even when their lives weren’t worth living at all. The way their vessels constricted within their eyes, their throats, the way a hand can be found still grasping toward another moment. Just one more. I’ve seen that yearning inside and out. Guts clenched, muscles flexed. I could describe the pearls of bruises that encircle lovely throats, the shredded spleens from shod feet, the slashes and entry wounds and multitude of crushed skulls that needed reinforcing for open caskets. I would tell Mike that never before or since have I witnessed such savagery as I did when Precious Doe was discovered.
I’ve already told author Amy MacKinnon via Twitter that I would feel honored to take a writing class with her. She’s an exquisite writer who arranges sentences with precision and care. TETHERED delves into the absolutely necessary, though some might feel morbid field of undertaking [of course if you were a fan, as I was, of Six Feet Under, you know a bit of the ins and outs, so to speak]. MacKinnon provides the pertinent details and visuals. In Clara Marsh, TETHERED has the ideal detached heroine who left her own painful childhood behind to pursue this unusual profession at a funeral home in Brockton, Mass. [her mother died in a car accident leaving her to be raised by an abusive grandmother]. She leads a quiet and solitary life and prefers it that way. She gardens and even has her own perfect secret garden that few people know about. Gardening is her escape. When a young girl, Trecie, begins hanging around the funeral home and then shows up in child pornography, Clara is reluctantly drawn into a case along with Detective Mike Sullivan. The case is also connected to an unidentified child [nicknamed Precious Doe] who died three years prior. The funeral home gave her a service and buried her. Signs lead to the Reverend and then even to Clara’s own boss who treats her as his daughter. Who really is the mastermind behind this child pornography ring and will it be too late to save Trecie from the same fate as poor Precious Doe? TETHERED is a clever thriller that keeps you turning pages and guessing to the end.
–review by Amy Steele
Title: Midsomer Murders, Set 13
Starring: John Nettles, Jason Hughes
Running time: 400 min.
MPAA: Not Rated
Release date: September 29, 2009
Studio: Acorn Media
Review source: Acorn Media
Set in a fairly small English village where most people know each other, yet rural enough that you can hide out or manage discretion; Midsomer Murders pairs Detective Chief Inspector Tom Barnaby [John Nettles] with a youthful protégée Detective Sergeant Ben Jones [Jason Hughes]. The series has that creepy vibe that the British mystery writers have mastered fairly well. It must have something to do with the rainy days and those long-standing traditions. Because behind those rolling fields and long driveways, flower-filled patches in the midst of the woods and lovely landscapes lies some strange behaviors, obsessions and truly evil doings. But Barnaby and Jones aim to get to the bottom of it all. As long-running as our Law & Order is here, Midsomer Murders has aired since 1997 in the UK. The series and mysteries are inspired by novelist Caroline Graham.
Four episodes are featured [I cannot say too much without giving anything away]:
Dance with the Dead
When a young man, Simon Bright, asphyxiates in a vintage automobile, Barnaby and Jones search for his enigmatic girlfriend, Laura Sharp. The scene, with romantic music, a bottle of wine and two wine glasses, looks like that of a Romeo and Juliet suicide pact but only the young man is found in the car. And he’s been whacked on the head. As the two detectives question the villagers, you think it’s going a certain way and then, surprise! Excellent detective work.
The Animal Within
This one starts out strong: Faith arrives from Philadelphia to visit her uncle. She’s greeted by the groundskeeper: “You’re supposed to be dead,” he exclaims. “What is the old badger up to now?” She then tells them all that no one in her family has seen Rex in 40 years. Rex had told everyone that Faith and her entire family had died in a plane crash. Now he’s disappeared. When Rex turns up dead with four different wills then everything begins to unravel and turn topsy-turvy, to say the least. Secrets about Rex are revealed and strange events occur. This is definitely my favorite of the bunch. So darkly secret and wickedly strange.
Shanghai, China. Two brothers. One dies in an explosion. He seems to have been the popular one among this wealthy King family. The family business? Oh, that cut-throat artisan glassworks. I like this one because the family is very posh. The Estate is gorgeous. I expect everyone to go off on a hunt (on horses—it’s Britain!). The kids are mad at mom. The business is not doing as well as one thought. This one is a bit slower paced.
The Axeman Cometh
Choice quote: “Gary, when I was 13 and welded to a pony and you’d fled Midsomer to become the new gormless ape on the rock scene we were still friends, right?”
This is a funny one. Aging heavy-metal rockers have taken over the town for the Midsomer music rock festival. They’re lounging around by a pool in shades and 70s attire– long hair, leather, flowy clothes. Barnaby reminisces about various concerts. He’s even looking through his old albums and playing air guitar. [Barnaby’s daughter: “Dad please try and maintain the gap between the generations.” The vibe sours though when someone is killing the rock stars.
Features: Caroline Graham biography and cast filmographies
Based on the novel by popular author Joanna Trollope, A Village Affair focuses on Alice Jordan [Sophie Ward], a mother of three, who has married a wealthy but staid husband, Martin [Nathaniel Parker] and moved to a quiet village. She’s given up on the painting she once loved to do and has become depressed since the birth of her third child. When a wild-child heiress [Kerry Fox] returns from living abroad in Manhattan, she stirs things up for the couple.
Alice remarks to a friend of hers that she never got to go wild herself and her friend replies: That kind of wild requires money, good schools, and hordes of ancestors.
A Village Affair has a slow, even pace. Alice’s mother-in-law has always had a stronghold over Alice and her son. She makes decisions about what she things Alice should do. Everyone wants Alice. Even when Martin’s brother Anthony [Jeremy Northam] visits, he makes his desires know. Over time, Clodagh and Alice spent more and more time together and end up falling in love and having a real love affair which becomes a devastating scandal that rocks the entire village. Alice finds herself and becomes much more independent and happy but not without consequences. A Village Affair ends up being sad and destructive in the end as love leads to loss for everyone.
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