Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Review of "Death of a Nightingale" by Lene Kaaberbøl and Agnete Friis



  
In this third book in the series, Natasha - a Ukrainian woman living is Denmark - is in prison for attempted murder. She escapes police custody and is desperate to reunite with her eight-year-old daughter Katerina. The girl has been living in a refuge, cared for by nurse Nina Borg (the 'star' of the series). Meanwhile, there are a lot of complex things going on and other people want to get their hands on little Katerina.

The book's structure - going back and forth in time - became confusing. And there were so many minor characters that they started to blend together and it was hard to remember who was who.

Still, I would have liked the book better if the ending was more complete and resolved. When I fiinished the book I couldn't quite figure out exactly what happened all those years ago that drove all the components of the story.



Rating: 3 stars

Monday, April 25, 2016

Review of "The Golem of Hollywood" by Jonathan Kellerman and Jesse Kellerman




Jacob Lev is an alcoholic, almost washed-up LAPD detective who's been relegated to the traffic department. Then an unidentified severed head is found in an abandoned house along with the Hebrew word for "justice". Lev is reassigned to the ensuing murder investigation, apparently because of his Jewish heritage. It soon becomes clear that this isn't a routine murder inquiry but rather a secretive endeavor to be conducted from Jacob's apartment.

As Jacob uncovers clues he discovers that a series of interconnected murders are the work of one or more serial killers. In his pursuit of the killers Jacob travels to Prague where he makes startling discoveries related to his family as well as the crimes. To add to the mystery Jacob has encounters with an exotic beautiful woman and a huge, angry horned beetle - both of which seem to have some connection with what's going on.

A second pseudo-biblical tale alternates with the story of Jacob's investigation. This historical tale - which starts out with Cain and Abel competing for the same woman and evolves into the origin of the golem of Prague - turns out to have links to the current serial murders. Jacob's beloved father Sam, a rabbinical scholar, also seems to have some connection with the historical tale and ancient Prague.

The conglomeration of the modern story and the bible-like story doesn't work well. While the narration of Jacob's murder investigation is mildly engaging the historical tale is slow and - for most of the book - doesn't seem to be going anywhere.

It seems like one or both authors wanted to make use of (what seems to be) a thorough Yeshiva education, injecting a good deal of Jewish philosophy and beliefs into the book. There's too much of this though, and it doesn't fit in with the book's murder inquiry. This type of thing has been been done much better in the "Rabbi Small" mysteries by Harry Kemelman.

In any case, by the end of the book it seemed like an unlikely, disjointed fairy tale about (I think) justice across the ages. Moreover, I didn't care about the crimes, who committed them, or why. I was just glad to be done with the book.

I'm a fan of Jonathan Kellerman and have enjoyed many of his books but this collaboration of the father son team - Jonathan and Jesse Kellerman - is not a success. I don't recommend this book.


Rating: 1 star

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Review of "The Bone Orchard" by Paul Doiron




Sergeant Kathy Frost and her partner, Maine game wardens, are forced to shoot a badly disfigured Gulf War veteran, Jimmy Gammon, in self-defense ("suicide by cop"). However, Jimmy's family and friends, as well as other veterans are infuriated and a few days later Kathy is shot and badly wounded.

It so happens that Mike Bowditch - an ex-game warden who was visiting his former mentor Kathy - was on the spot at the time, and was also injured. Mike, who quit being a warden because of friction with a commanding officer, feels compelled to look into the case. It's not so easy because Mike has no badge and no authority.

Mike - who is now a hunting/fishing guide - has a lot of time on his hands which he uses to hang out, visit people, and talk talk talk a lot. To me it seemed like many scenes were extraneous to the story and slowed down the action too much.

There are a lot of characters in the story, including Jimmy's distraught parents and friends, Kathy's alcoholic trouble-making brother, Mike's ex-girlfriends, various game wardens, clerks and waitresses, and so on - which leads to an abundance of suspects. Mike keeps on and solves the case, but the solution seems a bit out of left field and isn't quite satisfying.

This was the first book I've read in the series and I think perhaps previous ones were better. This one was just too meandering. It detracted from my enjoyment of the book.



Rating: 2 stars

Review of "Betrayal of Trust" by J.A. Jance




When Governor Marsha Longmire of Washington finds a snuff film on her step-grandson Josh's cell phone she calls her old classmate, Detective J.P. Beaumont (Beau), to investigate. The film shows the death of a young girl during "the choking game", apparently a fad among some teens. Beau and his wife Melissa, also a homicide detective, get on the case. They question Josh, who purports to know nothing about the film. Josh is uneasy however, and further developments suggest he might know more than he admits.

Beau and Melissa soon trace the dissemination of the film to "Janie's House", a facility where poor or homeless teens can hang out, shower, wash their clothes, have access to computers and cell phones, and so on. The detectives find that the Governor's family has a connection with the facility since Longmire's daughter - along with some of her private school classmates - volunteer there. They also discover that bullying emails found on Josh's computer were sent from Janie's House.

Additional deaths complicate the case, as does sabotage at Janie's House. With the involvement of the Governor's family the detectives need to tread carefully. Nevertheless, they skillfully navigate the investigation, and the case is resolved in a highly satisfactory manner.

There's also a sub-plot in which Beau finds out more about his father (who died before he was born) and the Texas family he never knew. This helped round out Beau's history but didn't add much to the plot.

The book is well-written with believable characters and interesting twists. Good mystery, highly recommended.


Rating: 4 stars

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Review of "Niceville" by Carsten Stroud



 
Rainey Teague is walking home from school one afternoon, looking into store windows, when he disappears. Seems this kind of thing is common in Niceville, which seems to have an unusually large number of abductions.

Other terrible things also happen in town. There's been a recent bank robbery, associated with the death of several citizens and four cops - in which millions of dollars and a secret high-tech device were stolen. Even worse, the robbers were a police officer and his accomplices. A creepy divorced husband/father, forbidden to see his child, makes elaborate plans to cause major trouble for some local residents. Several respected citizens disappear in mysterious circumstances. And there are whispered warnings around town that's it's dangerous to look into mirrors.

Detective Nick Kavanaugh, his lawyer wife Kate, and Agent Boonie Hackendorff take an interest in the odd occurrences and crimes in Niceville - which come to involve the odd reappearance of a comatose Rainey Teague; double-crosses among criminals; Chinese businessmen; blackmail; a possible child molester; ghosts that tear people apart; secret pornographic photos; and more.

This is a complex story that blends supernatural events in a seemingly cursed town with criminal activity that might occur anywhere. The flurry of characters and activities lead to a resolution that doesn't seem to tie up all the loose ends - but this may have been the author's intention.

All in all it's an okay book with a little too much going on for easy reading.



Rating: 3 stars

Monday, April 18, 2016

Review of "Guilt" by Jonathan Kellerman




A decades old baby skeleton contained in an old blue box is found buried in the backyard of a Beverly Hills home and a few days later a set of fresh baby bones and a dead woman turn up in nearby Cheviot Hills Park. Are the events connected? Is it a cult? Los Angeles Police Lieutenant Milo Sturgis and Dr. Alex Delaware, psychologist consultant to the police, look into the cases.

They discover that the Beverly Hills house may have been connected with abortions and the dead woman in the park was a nanny who had fallen off the grid months before. As the investigation proceeds additional dead and missing persons are associated with the cases.

As usual with Kellerman's mysteries Milo and Alex meet a variety of eccentric/interesting individuals as they question persons of interest. Much of the enjoyment of this series comes from spending time with the characters - watching Milo scarf down gargantuan meals and seeing Alex hang out with his girlfriend Robin and cute French bulldog Blanche.

The investigation eventually leads to a surprising, but relatively believable climax. One problem with the book is that the lives of some characters seem to undergo dramatic changes that are not credible. This is a minor quibble though and most mystery lovers would enjoy this book.


Rating: 3 stars

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Review of "Münsters Fall" by Håkan Nesser




Waldemar Leverkuhn and three of his friends are thrilled to discover they've won the lottery and go out to celebrate. Returning home drunk and exhausted Leverkuhn falls into bed only to be murdered in his sleep. Chief Inspector Van Veeteren is on leave so his subordinate,  Inspector Munster, is assigned the case. Munster soon learns that Leverkuhn was stabbed 28 times and that one of his fellow lottery winners is missing.

Questioning potential witnesses reveals that Leverkuhn's wife was visiting friends on the night of the murder and other residents of his building claim to have heard nothing. Leverkuhn's children are estranged from their parents and seem to know little about their lives. In addtion to having a stalled investigation, married Inspector Munster is distracted by fantasies about his attractive co-worker Ewa Moreno, who is trying to shed a neurotic boyfriend. To add to the Leverkuhn mystery a formidable woman living in his building also disappears.

Munster carries on and discovers some dark secrets related to the crimes. My one quibble with the book is that this twist tends to be overused in crime novels. All in all I enjoyed the story which is well-written with interesting characters.


Rating: 3 stars

Review of "The Hen of the Baskervilles" by Donna Andrews



The town of Caerphilly, Virginia is hosting a fair and Meg Langslow - blacksmith, wife, mother of toddler twins, and hobbyist farmer - is assistant director. Amidst preparations for opening day a vandal targets the fair and valuable chickens are stolen, a prize-worthy pumpkin is smashed, and a beautiful quilt is sullied. Soon afterward a straying husband is shot dead.


The Caerphilly cops reluctantly team up with neighboring Clay cops to solve the crime and, of course, Meg helps investigate as well. I enjoyed this humorous, cozy mystery and learned something about heirloom species of animals as well. A good light read.


Rating: 3 stars

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Review of "Carthage" by Joyce Carol Oates




Cressida Mayfield, a troubled, immature 19-year-old college student, goes missing from the small city of Carthage, New York. Brett Kincaid, a badly injured, decorated Iraq war veteran who was previously engaged to Cressida's sister Juliet, is suspected of being involved in the disappearance.

Cressida's parents, Zeno and Arlette, are shattered by the tragedy as is Brett's embittered, neurotic mother, who accuses all and sundry of wronging her "war hero" son. We find out about the lives of these characters, what happened to Cressida, and the devastating consequences of her disappearance.

Can't say too much more without giving away spoilers so I'll just say the story points out how much we may not know about people close to us. Good book, worth reading.


Rating: 3 stars

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Review of "Blind Goddess" by Anne Holt




A young Dutchman is accused of killing a drug dealer in Oslo, Norway and insists on being represented by Karen Borg, the lawyer who found the body. However Borg is a civil, not criminal attorney, and defense lawyer Peter Strup tries to horn in on her client. The Dutchman refuses to change lawyers though and exhibits fear of attorneys and lockup.

Soon afterwards another attorney, the disreputable Hansa Larsen, is shot to death. Police officers Håkon Sand and Hanne Wilhelmsen connect the murders of the drug dealer and shady lawyer; moreover, they  find clues in the lawyer's house that lead them to suspect a huge drug-dealing conspiracy that involves lawyers and maybe even high government officials.

The police follow complex clues to unearth the culprits but have a very difficult time trying to bring them to justice. There's a lot of blather about the Norwegian court/justice system which slows down the story and the climax is very drawn out as well.

The book has some interesting characters/relationships that add to the story: married lawyer Karen and her friend Detective Håkon have a romantic attraction; Detective Hanne is gay and lives with her girlfriend. There's an intrepid reporter chasing after a scoop. And there are plenty of lawyers, good and bad. I thought it was just an okay mystery/thriller.


Rating: 3 stars

Review of "Vengeance" by Benjamin Black




Wealthy Dublin businessman Victor Delahaye invites Davey Clancy, the 25-year-old son of his business partner, out on his sailboat. Victor then proceeds to shoot himself in the chest. Soon afterward Delahaye's business partner Jack Clancy, who was secretly manueuvering to take over the company, is found dead in suspicious circumstances.

Detective Inspector Hackett and his friend, pathologist Dr. Quirke, look into both cases. Plenty of persons of interest turn up: Victor's beautiful, flirtatious, manipulative wife Mona; his handsome, hard-partying, adult twin sons Jonas and James; his quiet, self-effacing sister Maggie; and  Jack Clancy's wife Sylvia who has had to put up with her husband's constant womanizing.

The book is as much a character study as a mystery and at times I wanted the interactions among the characters to move along faster. The resolution of the mystery probably won't come as a total surprise but it's an entertaining book. 


Rating: 3 stars

Review of "Hearts of Sand" by Jane Haddam




Thirty years ago college student Chapin Waring, from the upscale town of Alwych, Connecticut, pulled off a series of bank robberies, killing two people. Her  suspected partner in crime, Martin, died in a car crash after the final bank job and Chapin disappeared. However, the $250,000 nabbed from the banks was never recovered or spent.

Then - in the present day - Chapin reappears in Alwych and is almost immediately murdered.  Suspects include the circle of Chapin's friends who survived the car crash, Chapin's family, and a conspiracy nut who has written a series of books about Chapin. Unable to solve the crime the Alwych police call in renowned detective Gregor Demarkian.

In the midst of Demarkian's investigation another one of Chapin's  former friends is murdered. Before he can uncover the culprit Demarkian has to determine if the murders are related to the old bank jobs or if other forces are at play. Demarkian interviews suspects and uncovers clues and of course, solves the crimes.

The story's characters are interesting but the clues to the mystery are rather weak. Thus the solution almost seems to be pulled out of the air. Nevertheless I enjoyed the book.


Rating: 3 stars

Friday, April 8, 2016

Review of "Song of Solomon" by Toni Morrison




This beautifully written book about a black family living in Michigan has a little of everything - magic, ghosts, eccentrics, murdereres, lovers, and more. Jumping back and forth in time. it tells the story of Milkman Dead, who after growing up indulged and self-centered in a northern, industrial city comes to discover something of his ancestry and roots in the rural south. A fascinating story filled with wonderful interesting characters.

Highly recommended to fans of literary fiction.          


Rating: 5 stars   

Review of "Shallow Graves" by Jeffery Deaver




John Pellam is in Cleary, New York to line up locations to film a Hollywood movie. Some residents are excited, hoping to land a part in the film. Other residents - for reasons of their own - want John and his partner Marty to go away forever. Harassment ensues and before long Marty is dead in suspicious circumstances.

The town honchos expect John to pack up and leave but he insists on hanging around to investigate his partner's death. In the course of his investigation John meets a variety of people: a horny hippy, a pretty real estate agent and her family, a hostile mayor, a tough sheriff, some thugs, and so on.

The story has a rather mundane "secrets in a small town" theme but it has some interesting twists. Just an okay book.


Rating: 3 stars

Review of "Touch and Go" by Lisa Gardner




Members of a wealthy family, Justin and Libby Denbe and their teenage daughter Ashlyn, are kidnapped and an assortment of law enforcement personnel, including state police, FBI and a private security agent work day and night to try to  locate them.

Justin has been unfaithful, the Denbe's have marital problems, and Ashlyn has secrets. The book's POV alternates between Libby and Tessa, the private security agent. I didn't enjoy the book much and had to push myself to finish it.

Kidnapping themes are my least favorite suspense theme and a lot of the characters in the story were unsympathetic or downright unlikeable. The ending is probably supposed to be a shocker but it doesn't totally pan out that way. Just not my kind of story.


Rating: 3 stars

Review of "Outlaw Mountain" by J.A. Jance




In this 7th book in the series Sheriff Joanna Brady investigates the death of Alice Rogers, a wealthy older woman gruesomely murdered in the Arizona desert. Alice's self-absorbed arrogant son and belligerent daughter direct suspicion at Alice's boyfriend Farley Adams - who soon makes himself scarce.

At the same time Joanna has to contend with rabid environmentalists who oppose a building project whose approval may have involved some chicanery and corruption. To add to the chaos Joanna inadvertently gets custody of Junior, a developmentally disabled man of about fifty who was apparently abandoned in a church by his family.

Plenty of complications arise with all of the above cases which Joanna and her deputies have to sort out. Meanwhile, in Joanna's personal life her boyfriend Butch is getting more serious and her deputy sheriff Dick Voland is jealous and angry. The usual characters  make an appearance in the story, including two of my favorite trouble-makers, spiteful reporter Marliss Shackleford and Joanna's controlling mother, Eleanor Lathrop Winfield.

This book is an enjoyable addition to the Joanna Brady saga.


Rating: 3 stars

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Review of "A Turbulent Priest" by J.M. Gregson




An unusually ferocious rainstorm unearths a murdered corpse in Lancashire, England and Detective Inspector Percy Peach and Detective Sergeant Lucy Blake discover the victim was a local priest.

During their investigation the detectives learn that the priest was suspected of molesting boys in the church youth club. Of course the shocked and angry families of the boys become suspects in the murder. Moreover, the priest seems to have been associated with a child porn ring, the members of which are anxious not to be exposed. Could they have shut up the priest so he didn't get an attack of conscience and report them?

Plenty of suspects in this cozy mystery, and some interesting characters. The detectives have a nice rapport between them and  I liked the priest's housekeeper, a devoted lady determined to see the best in the priest and to defend his reputation. I thought the book was a pretty good light mystery.


Rating: 3 stars

Review of "The Dead In Their Vaulted Arches" by Alan Bradley




Twelve-year-old Flavia de Luce and her family are at the train station awaiting the return of her long missing mother when a mysterious man gives Flavia a cryptic message for her father. Before long the man is dead, his mutilated body lying under the train. Thus begins a Flavia de Luce novel that is more of an espionage story than a murder mystery.

Nevertheless, Flavia is up to her usual tricks in this book, cooking up exotic chemical experiments to reanimate the dead and decipher hidden messages. As usual, Flavia is also plotting to best the local police with her superior detective skills. The book is filled with interesting characters, including Mr. de Luce's faithful manservant (and jack of all trades) Dogger, eccentric relatives, quirky acquaintances, and Flavia's sisters.

I was a little annoyed by Flavia's continuing arrogance and (often-expressed) high opinion of herself and I found the convoluted espionage tale slightly confusing. Nevertheless it was an okay light read.


Rating: 3 stars

Review of "Never Nosh a Matzo Ball" by Sharon Kahn



In this amusing cozy mystery set in the town of Eternal, Texas, Ruby Rothman, widow of the late rabbi of Temple Rita, is involved in many Temple activities. So when Ruby's nemesis - bossy, narcissistic Essie Sue Margolis - decides to sell lo-cal (and inedible) matzo balls as a fund raiser for the Temple, Ruby is roped in to help.

In the midst of planning the matzo ball sale, Bogie, a trainer at the fitness center owned by Essie Sue is found dead in suspicious circumstances. Of course Ruby, being a natural born yenta and self-styled amateur sleuth gets right on the job. Plenty of fun situations and fun characters in the book. Great for a light read.


Rating: 3 stars

Review of "Takedown Twenty" by Janet Evanovich



Stephanie Plum is trying to accomplish two goals: nab the mobster "Uncle Sunny" for skipping out on his bail and help Ranger find out who's killing elderly women and throwing them in dumpsters.

As usual Stephanie and her sidekick Lula are hilarious. Stephanie can't go a couple of days without starting a fire, getting some cars wrecked, and having killers pursue her. And Lula is in fine form as she pursues her goal of acquiring a genuine designer handbag. Add in Grandma Mazur and Kevin the Giraffe and this is a great, fun mystery.  


Rating: 4 stars

Review of "Swimsuit" by James Patterson & Maxine Paetro



The premise of this story is that Ben Hawkins, former cop and current novelist, is being forced by a sociopathic serial killer to write a book about the killer's life and crimes. The killer's modus operandi is to videotape the sexual abuse, torture, and murder of his victims so that a group of sick voyeurs can watch and enjoy. Thus the killer profits (literally) from his crimes.

The book starts out with the torture/murder of a beautiful swimsuit model but the killer's victims are quite eclectic and he branches out to older adults, young girls and boys....whoever strikes his fancy.

For me the premise was unbelievable, the characters were flat, and the story was not very original. Not a great book.


Rating: 1 star

Review of "Summerland" by Elin Hilderbrand




The evening of the high school graduation in Nantucket is a time for celebration. But the night ends tragically when sweet, talented Penny Alistair - a rising high school senior - takes the wheel of a Jeep containing her sports-phenom brother Hobby, her friend Demeter, and her boyfriend Jake. Penny seemingly purposely crashes the Jeep, killing herself and horribly injuring Hobby, while leaving Jake and Demeter physically unscathed.

What did Demeter tell Penny that set off this event?  That's the central mystery is this character driven story. Hildebrand presents a realistic picture of troubled families in a small community. We see adultery, unresolved grief, teens in crisis, young love, lax mothering, mental illness and more.

I didn't find the climax very believable or satisfying but all in all the book contains a touching portrayal of how the people of a community try to deal with a tragedy of this magnitude.


Rating: 3 stars

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Review of "Lucky Bastard" by Deborah Coonts




This mystery starts off with Lucky O’Toole, customer relations honcho for the Babylon Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, being called to the hotel's on-site car dealership. There a beautiful woman lies dead on top of a Ferrari, stabbed in the neck with a Jimmy Choo shoe. It turns out the woman participated in high stakes poker games at the hotel and just might have been cheating.

Lucky starts to look into the murder, enlisting the help of her friends, staff, and detective pal Romeo. Soon more people associated with high-stakes poker turn up dead - and as Lucky runs around investigating her own life may even be endangered.

The book has a good deal of humor, engaging characters, some romantic angst, and a nice touch of Las Vegas casino ambience. Enjoyable light mystery.


Rating: 3 stars

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Review of "The Poisoned Pilgrim" by Oliver Pötzsch



Mystery is afoot in a monastery in Bavaria in 1666, a popular pilgrimage destination. Monks are experimenting with lightning, relics are missing, and people are dying and disappearing. The local villagers fear magic and sorcery are involved.

On hand to look into the strange happenings are three unusual pilgrims: the hangman's daughter Magdalena, her medic husband Simon, and the hangman, Jakob Kuisl. Unfortunately, during these times suspects are regularly tortured until they confess, so the true culprits are difficult to discover. Moreover, some dangerous people don't like feisty Magdalena and her relatives nosing into their affairs and take measures to stop them.

Heightening the tension, many pilgrims and villagers have fallen ill, and if the medic can't cure the Count's son he's likely to be hanged as well. I enjoyed this book which had plenty of colorful characters and enough twists and turns to keep it interesting.


Rating: 3 stars

Review of "The Whole Enchilada" by Diane Mott Davidson



In this book Goldy is catering a Mexican food birthday party for a teen after which the teen's mother - a close friend of Goldy's - suddenly collapses and dies. Goldy feels compelled to find out about her pal's mysterious death and as usual thrusts herself into the police investigation.

Soon afterward Goldy's pastor is stabbed and a rival caterer who tried to steal Goldy's business is murdered. I don't want to give away essential plot points but the story involves too many disparate elements: terrible parents, misuse of trust funds, art shenanigans, unfaithfulness (and more) to ever mesh together in a satisfactory way. Goldy also bullies witnesses and leaps to conclusions from the tiniest hint of "evidence". I liked this series for a long time but for me Goldy is losing her mojo.


Rating: 2 stars

Review of "Dead Anyway" by Chris Knopf




In this mystery Arthur Cathcart - a market researcher who loves his beautiful, successful wife - has his life torn apart by a sudden act of violence. Determined to find out who's responsible he hatches an elaborate scheme filled with false identities, complex business dealings, thugs and gangsters, and a beautiful woman.

Naturally Arthur has millions of dollars available to help him perpetrate his scheme. Most of the book involves detailed descriptions of how he pulled off these shenanigans; I found these hard to follow and not that interesting. However if you like to read about these kinds of complex schemes you'll probably like it.


Rating: 2 stars

Review of "The Prophet" by Michael Koryta




Adam and Kent Austin are estranged brothers, both still reeling from the murder of their young sister when they were teenagers. Adam feels especially guilty because on the night of his sister's murder he blew off driving her home to be with his girl.

Adam is now a bail bondsman and Kent is coach of the high school football team. The football team is on track to a state championship when the girlfriend of a star player is murdered. Adam feels compelled to investigate the crime and finds disturbing connections to himself and his brother.

This is a well-written suspense thriller that draws you in and keeps you turning the pages.


Rating: 4 stars

Review of "Running Scared" by Lisa Jackson




In this book 15 year-old Jon Summers, unknown to himself, was adopted at birth in unusual circumstances. Jon has visions of the past and future and talks about them, so of course he's bullied at school. The crux of the story revolves around Jon's birth grandfather trying to track him down and get him back so the family fortune can pass to him. Other familiy members - wanting the fortune themselves - aren't so keen on the idea. The story involves some not so savory family interactions ( a little incest anyone?). An okay suspense thriller.


Rating: 3 stars

Review of "The Cuckoo's Calling" by Robert Galbraith



This mystery revolves around the death of gorgeous model Lula Landry, who falls from her balcony in an apparent suicide. Her brother, John Bristow, insists Lula was murdered and hires down-on-his-luck detective Cormoran Strike (who lost a leg in the Afghanistan war) to investigate. Against his better judgement Strike takes the case.

There are plenty of interesting characters, including Lula's druggie musician boyfriend, her eccentric grasping relatives, her celebrity friends, a homeless girl she met in therapy, and so on.

Strike and his temporary secretary Robin make good investigative partners and the case is solved and explained in a satisfactory way. Good first mystery for Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling).


Rating: 4 stars

Review of "The Ophelia Cut" by John Lescroart




In this Dismas Hardy (defense attorney) book, Dismas's brother-in-law Moses Mcguire is accused of murdering Rick Jessup, an abusive, blackmailing young man that his daughter had dated.

The story has a bunch of possible suspects, including the handsome ex-cop/killer for hire who is in witness protection, the "massage parlor" entrepreneur, the crooked city councilman, etc. The politics of the police investigation results in power plays within the department that involve Dismas' good friend, detective Abe Glitzky.

About half-way through the book slides into trial mode, with plenty of courtroom scenes, which are well-done.

I found this mystery book entertaining but felt it wasn't entirely satisfying and was not one of Lescroart's best efforts.


Rating: 3 stars

Review of "That Will Do Nicely" by Ian Wallace Campbell



British citizen Tom Pascoe, left in debt by his vindictive ex-wife, devises a scheme to forge travelers checks. Tom enlists the aid of beautiful Samantha and the two accomplices set out to get rich.
Tom and Sam become romantically involved while devising and carrying out their clever plan and enjoy each other's company along with European travel, delicious meals, and intimate interludes.

The characters in this book are rather two-dimensional but the forging scheme is well-described and fascinating. As with most schemes, however, things don't go totally as planned. The British authorities soon become aware that something is amiss and suspense builds as the police begin to pursue the miscreants.

Will Tom and Sam get away with the loot?  You'll have to read the book to find out.


Rating: 3 stars

Friday, April 1, 2016

Review of "I'm a Stranger Here Myself" by Bill Bryson



Bill Bryson, born in Iowa, lived in England for twenty years before returning to the U.S. with his family. This book is a compilation of humorous articles about America that Bryson wrote for a British publication. The book, published in 2000, is somewhat dated. Even taking this into account many articles have a snarky, annoying tone. This was disappointing as I usually like Bryson's books.

Parts of the book did make me smile, including a few satirical - but overly long - articles detailing the million steps required to: fill out an income tax return; get a foreign-born family member declared a legal resident of the U.S; and set up a new computer (of course this is much easier now).

Other things on Bryson's mind were more problematic for me, such as his: whining about smoking restrictions because people want to avoid second-hand smoke; griping about letters being returned even though he didn't know the correct address (he seems to feel the post office has an obligation to figure out where he wants his letters delivered); day-trips for fun - which he generally describes as endless hours of driving for 10 minures of recreation, and so on. I wanted to tell Bryson, "if you don't like it here, go back to England" (which he actually did in 2003).

The book might be worth checking out of the library but it's not worth buying. He's written much better ones.


Rating: 3 stars