Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A Penny For The Hangman by Tom Savage

Fifty years ago, a crime shook the island of St. Thomas to its core.  Two teenage boys, friends and sons of two of the island's most influential families, were convicted of murder.  Not just any murder.  Both sets of parents were killed at a dinner they were having together as well as the maid working at the house that evening.  The boys were unrepentant and quickly convicted and sent to separate prisons on the mainland for decades. 

Now, a movie has been made to acknowledge the fiftieth anniversary of the crime.  No one knows what happened to the boys once they were released from their separate prisons.  Did they meet up again afterward?  Were they rehabilitated?  Are they living lives of poverty or lives of ease?  No one knows, but Karen Tyler may have the chance to find out.

Karen, a magazine reporter, has what could be the scoop of a lifetime.  She is contacted by a mystery individual who asks her to come to St. Thomas to get the inside story of what really happened fifty years ago.  Karen is eager to make her mark as a journalist, and quickly accepts the offer.  She believes her mystery man is one of the killers and she can't wait for the interview of a lifetime.  The question is:  whose lifetime? 

Tom Savage has written a compelling mystery that brings memories of some of the famous teenage killers of the sixties; those like Leopold and Loeb and the men who were convicted of the crimes written about in Truman Capote's masterpiece, In Cold Blood.  The action is nonstop and the reader is thrown in and towed along in the aftermath of the crime.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Friday, September 26, 2014

The Steady Running Of The Hour by Justin Go

Just as Tristan Campbell graduates college, he receives a letter with a phone number that may change his life.  The number is that of an English law firm, and they want to pay his way to London to talk with him about something possibly advantageous.  At loose ends, the decision to go is  not difficult.

When Tristan meets with the lawyers, they tell him a fantastic tale.  He may be the recipient of a large fortune through his maternal grandmother who he remembers slightly.  Although she was presented to the world with one set of parents, it could instead be that she was raised by the sister of the real mother, Imogene Soames-Andersson.  Imogene had a brief affair with Ashley Walsingham, who was later killed in a mountaineering expedition to be the first men to conquer Everest.  Before he left, he left his money to Imogene although she had disappeared and he didn't know where she was.  If she couldn't receive the money, it was to go to her descendants if they came forward to claim in in a specific frame of time.  After that, the money would instead go to various charities.

Tristan is amazed but there is more news.  Although there are suggestions that he is the descendant of Imogene and Ashley, there is no documented proof.  He must discover such proof to claim the fortune.  He has two months to do so before the fortune reverts to the charities.

Tristan sets off to see if he can discover anything.  His college degree was in history and he knows about the time period of the affair; right in the middle of World War I.  It took place immediately before Ashley was shipped to France to the Soammes battlegrounds.  His quest takes him from place to place; English document repositories, the battlegrounds Ashley was stationed at, Germany, and Iceland.  He makes some amazing discoveries, but none seem enough to be definite proof.  Can Tristan find out the truth about Ashley and Imogene?

Justin Go has written an intriguing tale that those interested in puzzles and in family genealogy will find of interest.  Along the way, the reader learns about the trenches of World War I and the expeditions where men attempted to conquer Mount Everest.  Those passages are especially well-researched.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

To Dwell In Darkness by Deborah Crombie

Things have changed in the Kincaid household.  Duncan Kincaid has returned to the job as a detective superintendent after a lengthy paternity leave.  He is, without warning, demoted and transferred from his job heading up an investigative team at Scotland Yard to the London Borough of Camden, where he has a totally new murder team and new bosses.  He retains his title, but can't understand why the change has been made and his old boss isn't around to ask.  His wife, Chief Inspector Gemma James, has been promoted and also heads up an investigative team in another station.

But policeman rarely have time to ponder.  Kincaid and his team are called to historic St. Pancras train station.  A music festival there is interrupted when a protest group against modernization sets off a phosphorus grenade, killing the holder.  The group, mostly young university students and the homeless young, insist that they were setting off a smoke bomb only.  If that is true, how did the grenade come into their possession and who would want to kill one of them?  Even more suspicious, one of the group has disappeared and no one has any idea where he might be, or even who he really was.  Did he substitute the deadly device?

Gemma has her own murder to worry about.  A teenage girl has been lured to a deserted spot, kidnapped and killed.  Gemma and her team are sure they know who did it, but have no way to prove it.  Can they discover the evidence they are sure must exist somewhere?

This is the sixteenth novel in Deborah Crombie's series in this interesting mix of murder and the domestic lives of a young professional couple in London.  The Kincaid household consists of a teenager, a young son, and a foster child of three, along with lots of family connections and friends.  The couple must balance the demands of a two career household with those of the children, and it is interesting to see how this common dilemma plays out in the law enforcement area.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.  Although part of a series, it can also be read as a stand alone mystery.  Deborah Crombie is an American, but she always felt she belonged in Britain, and moved there as soon as she could as an adult.  Readers will agree she gets the feel of Britain correct, and will enjoy her unraveling of the mysteries surrounding the couples.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Booksie's Shelves, September 21, 2014

Another great week of reading!  I've been roaming in England with a whimsical private detective, reading the best science fiction stories of 2011, back in England with a police married couple who are investigating a bomb, off to Africa with early filmmakers, looking for a secret ancestor in France, Switzerland and the Alps, and revisiting a fifty-year mystery in St. Thomas.  Some exciting new books have arrived:

1.  Swing State, Michael Fournier, literary fiction, sent by author
2.  Us, David Nicholls, literary fiction, sent for book tour
3.  The Turning Season, Sharon Shinn, fantasy, sent by publisher
4. A World Elsewhere, Sigrid MacRae, memoir, sent by publisher
5.  Olde School, Selah Janel, fantasy, sent for book tour
6.  Last Train To Babylon, Charlee Fam, literary fiction, sent by publisher
7.  The Drop, Dennis Lehane, mystery, sent by publisher
8.  Never Mind Miss Fox, Olivia Glazebrook, mystery, sent by friend
9.  Crooked River, Valerie Geary, mystery, sent by publisher
10.  Murder 101, Faye Kellerman, mystery, sent by publisher
11.  The French Executioner, C.C. Humphreys, historical fiction, sent for book tour

Here's what I'm currently reading:

1.  Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of 2011, various, Kindle
2.  Beautiful Ruins, Jess Walter, paperback
3.  The Steady Running Of The Hour, Justin Go, hardback
4.  The Flamethrowers, Rachel Kushner, Kindle Fire
5.  The Fever, Megan Abbott, hardback
6.  New York, Edward Rutherfurd, paperback
7.  Africa!, Andrew Lewis Conn, hardback
8.  A Penny For The Hangman, Tom Savage, Kindle Fire
9.  The Death Box, J.A. Kerley, paperback
10.  Dwell In Darkness, Deborah Crumbie, hardback

Happy Reading!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Started Early, Took My Dog by Kate Atkinson

Jackson Brodie isn't exactly sure where his life is headed.  A former police inspector, he is now a private investigator and works on finding people who are lost.  He seems to find things and people almost by accident, and accidently is how he meanders through life.  Jackson is currently engaged by a woman in New Zealand who wants to find her birth family.  She knows nothing about them, only that she was adopted and brought to New Zealand from England when she was a toddler.

Jackson's search takes him to Leeds where a series of events happens.  He gets a dog when he takes it from an abusive owner.  He helps an elderly woman who is confused and about to be arrested for shoplifting.  He observes Tracy Waterhouse with a little girl, her daughter he assumes. 

But it isn't Tracy's daughter.  She is also a former police inspector and as she starts her retirement, impulsively buys a little girl from her mother, a prostitute who clearly doesn't want her.  Tracy does but realizes that her impulsive act will define the rest of her life.  Her former police acquaintances must be avoided as they all will inquire how Tracy came to have a little girl.  She keeps running into them, and it is soon apparent that an old crime they helped hide has now come back to haunt them all.  Stolen children and old crimes are the linchpins on which this mystery novel is built.

Kate Atkinson has written three novels featuring Jackson Brodie.  He is a likeable character who seems to do the right thing even when he is ignoring the law.  Parts of his past float into his current life and help him solve the mysteries he is pursuing.  The reader is entranced by the coincidences that define his work.  This book is recommended for mystery readers and those of literary fiction. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri

The Mitra family lives in Calcutta, India.  Their home is situated near two large lakes and the lowland that separates them and where the children play.  Next to the lowland are the high walls that separate the English country club from the native people, setting clear notice that the rich deserve the best while the poor are there to serve.  The family has two sons.  Subhash is the older, while Udayan is only fifteen months younger.  The boys grow up almost as twins, never apart, sharing everything.

Both boys excel academically, but their interests diverge.  Subhash, the steady one, concentrates on environmental science and moves to the United States for graduate degrees.  Udayan, who is passionate and impulsive, falls in with the emerging Naxalite political movement, an Indian Communist party.  He also marries without asking his parent's blessing, knowing that the studious Gauri would not be their choice.  The government uses harsh measures to crush the Naxalite movement and Udayan is caught up in that retribution. 

Subhash returns to India when his brother's tragedy occurs and returns to the United States with Gauri in tow.  They live as husband and wife and soon parents until the child is a teenager when Gauri leaves to pursue her own interests.  The book covers the lives of these individuals for the following decades, showing how youthful decisions have impact that last decades.

The Lowland is well regarded.  It was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize of 2013 as well as being a National Book Award Finalist.  It received awards from organizations such as the New York Times Book Review, NPR, Goodreads, Kirkus, Slate and Barnes and Nobles.  Lahiri treads the path she has written about before, that of the Indian immigrant life in America, and how the family and its obligations are central in the Indian life.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Dark Digital Sky by Carac Allison

Private investigator Chalk has led a life full of twists and turns.  He could have been a college professor but chose instead to focus on crime and becomes an FBI agent.  That job ends along with his marriage when his wife and he part brutally and he ruins his career along with any future relationship with his ex-wife and son.  So he turns to being a private eye as he can find anything.

Chalk gets a new case when a famous Hollywood producer hires him to find the children he may have sired through artificial insemination and that he has decided he wants to meet now that he is ill.  Chalk finds three sons fairly easily.  But finding these men is just the start of the case.  Before the case is done, Chalk uncovers a vast conspiracy of a new breed of terrorist that plans to create chaos through drone attacks, not overseas, but in the United States.

Carac Allison is a new author and his writing grabs the reader by the throat.  Along with the mystery, the reader is introduced to a plethora of subjects:  Japanese ceremonial swords, cyber-hacking, drone technology, paramilitary mercenaries, dog-fighting, street gangs, and the world of wrestling.  The computer lines are particularly well done, although they leave the reader uneasy at how easily networks can be broken.  The evil genius that becomes Chalk's nemesis, General Ripper, is an interesting character.  The pace is breakneck and the action never stops.  Readers will be reminded of Andrew Vachss and his private eye Burke, and of America's master novel, Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian.  This book is recommended for mystery readers who like hardboiled crime and the noir genre. 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Red 1-2-3 by John Katzenbach

The three woman don't know each other.  They are different ages and don't share an occupation or interests.  Karen is a middle-aged doctor who performs stand-up comedy for release.  Sarah is a school teacher who has suffered an unimaginable loss.  Jordan is a teenager attending a private school.

But they have two things in common.  They all have red hair.  They are also all targets of a stranger who tells them he is coming to kill them. He calls himself The Big Bad Wolf and has selected each of them to play the part of Red Riding Hood.

When the letters arrive informing them of their certain doom, they don't want to believe it.  Why would a stranger want to kill them?  Why them out of all the women in the world?  The letters contain personal information about each of them that convinces them that someone has been trailing them for months, documenting their routines and the people they have relationships with.  None has any doubt that this is serious but the police aren't interested in such an insubstantial threat.  It's obvious that if they are to survive they will have to save themselves.

John Katzenbach is a master of horror.  He spins a tale of three ordinary women and how each reacts to a very unordinary event in their lives.  He delves into their personalities and lets the reader catch a glimpse of what it would be like to be stalked by someone who is determined to kill you.  The novel draws the reader in and moves along quickly, giving the reader reasons to cheer for the women to defeat the killer.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Booksie's Shelves, September 10, 2014

September is a busy time in my family's life.  We have four birthdays, an anniversary and this year a new baby to welcome!  When I'm not busy with family occasions, I've been reading my way around the globe.  I've been to Ireland and England with mysteries, to China with political dissidents, and to India to trace out the relationships in an Indian family.  Along with my travels, here's the books that have come in the door:

1.  The Illusionists, Rosie Thomas, historical fiction, Vine review book
2.  The River Of Souls, Robert McCammon, suspense, Vine review book
3.  The Book Of Unknown Americans, Cristina Henriquez, literary fiction, Vine review book
4.  The Biology Of Luck, Jacob Appel, literary fiction, sent by author
5.  The Book Of Strange New Things, Michel Faber, literary fiction, sent by publisher
6.  The Tin Ticket, Deborah Swiss, nonfiction, Paperbackswap
7.  Murder On The Ile Sordou, M.L. Longworth, mystery, sent by publisher
8.  Phantom Limb, Dennis Palumbo, mystery, sent by publisher
9.  The Luminaries, Eleanor Catton, literary fiction, Paperbackswap
10.  How To Be A Good Wife, Emma Chapman, mystery, sent by publisher
11.  One Summer, Bill Bryson, nonfiction, Paperbackswap
12.  The Quest, Daniel Yergin, nonfiction, sent by publisher
13.  The Forgotten Girl, David Bell, mystery, sent by publisher

Here's what I'm currently reading:

1.  Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of 2011, various, Kindle
2.  Beautiful Ruins, Jess Walter, paperback
3.  The Steady Running Of The Hour, Justin Go, hardback
4.  The Flamethrowers, Rachel Kushner, Kindle Fire
5.  The Fever, Megan Abbott, hardback
6.  New York, Edward Rutherfurd, paperback
7.  Red 1-2-3, John Katenback, hardback
8.  A Penny For The Hangman, Tom Savage, mystery, Kindle Fire

Happy Reading!

Monday, September 8, 2014

The Secret Place by Tana French

Detective Stephen Moran has been stuck in the Cold Case department in the Dublin police force for far longer than he'd like.  He wants to work in the Murder Squad, like most other policemen but he doesn't seem to be making any progress in getting noticed there.  That may change the day Holly Mackey brings him a card.

Stephen met Holly years before when she was a child and a witness to a crime.  Now she is sixteen and the card she brings him has the picture of a boy, Chris Harper, and the words, "I know who killed him" on it.  Chris Harper was a student at a boy's exclusive school.  His body was found on the grounds of the neighboring girl's school, St. Kilda, where Holly attends school.

Stephen knows that this case got nowhere last year when the murder occurred.  Maybe this is his chance to make a splash and get the transfer he wants.  He brings the card to the lead detective on the Harper murder, Annette Conway.  Known for her abrasive manner, she agrees to let Stephen accompany her to St. Kilda to see if they can discover who posted the card and who might know something about the murder they didn't tell last year.

Suspicion soon narrows down to two groups of girls, rival cliques in the school.  One is Holly's group of four friends.  Holly is the most grounded in the adult world, with a father who is also a detective.  Julia is the leader of the group, smart, out-going and protective.  Becca is shy and depends on the other girls to make up for her lack of a family life.  Selena is gorgeous and spacey, the kind of girl whom you wonder how they will make it in the real world.  One of them is connected to Chris Harper and now its time for the truth to come out.

This is the fifth novel in the Dublin Murder Squad series.  Tana French writes compelling mysteries that delve deeply into the relationships of those involved in criminal cases, and in the relationships of the police among themselves.  The reader is drawn into the case as it unfolds and back into memories of when your friends were your most important touchstone in life.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Advent Of A Mystery by Marilyn Leach

Christmas is closing in on the small village of Aidan Kirkwood in England.  New vicar and parish priest, Hugh Elliott, wants to concentrate on shepherding his flock through the holidays.  His wife, former investigative reporter Berdie, is determined to put aside her former life and concentrate on being the perfect vicar's wife.  Life, however, has another plan for her.

When Berdie and her best friend Ellie, stop in to pick up an older resident for shopping, they are shocked to discover her body with her house ravaged, obviously the result of a furious search.  What could Miss Livingston have that was so important to someone else?  She lived a quiet life, renowned locally for her wonderful lavender and the wreaths she made with it.  But was her quiet life a shield from a troubled past?

Although Berdie doesn't want to upset her husband, she gets pulled into the investigation.  The local policeman is useless and he quickly settles on an outsider and claps him into jail based on some trouble he got into as a youth.  Berdie gets involved when she is let in on the secret love of the man accused and as she talks with him, she is more and more sure that he is innocent. 

Marilyn Leach has created a cozy mystery that will interest readers of English mysteries like those of Agatha Christie.  Berdie sees through the haze to the truth of the matter and doesn't let her gender or occupation stand in the way of revealing the truth.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Monday, September 1, 2014

The Weight Of Blood by Laura McHugh

It's the summer before Lucy's senior year and she is at loose ends.  Lucy is now old enough to start to question the things that she's always taken for granted.  Things like why there always seems to be tension between her father, Carl, and her uncle, Crete.  Things like how to attract a boy and what to do if one is attracted.  Things like what happened to the girl down the road who disappeared only to turn up murdered months later.  Things like the biggest mystery of all, what happened to her mother, Lila, who disappeared when Lucy was just a baby.

Along with questions, Lucy is given more freedom.  Her father is often out of town working construction and now Lucy is old enough to stay in the house by herself.  She is allowed to take a summer job working at her uncle's store.  As Lucy gets around more, she becomes more aware of the underlying mysteries that have shaped her life and becomes determined to figure out what has occurred.

But secrets are secrets for a reason.  As Lucy starts to question and dig into the past, she starts to see that everyone in her small Ozark town seems to have secrets.  Some are dark secrets, while other people's secrets are just hiding someone else's deeds.  How can Lucy maneuver between those with evil and good in their hearts to uncover the truths she needs to know?

Laura McHugh has written an engaging, atmospheric mystery that draws the reader in immediately.  The story is told with the device of each chapter being told by one of the characters in the story, most often either Lucy or her mother, Lila.  This allows the story to slowly unfold, bringing new pieces to the forefront in Lucy's battle to fight her way through the opaqueness that has surrounded her mother's life.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.