Tuesday, April 30, 2019

The Wrong Side Of Goodbye by Michael Connelly

After years of battling the LAPD administration, Harry Bosch is no longer an LAPD homicide detective.  He has been forced into retirement and has a lawsuit pending against them.  Retirement isn't something he wanted and he soon realizes he needs to keep busy.  Harry gets a private investigator's license and he also starts volunteering as a reserve officer in a small town nearby.  Soon both jobs involve him in complex cases.

Bosch is approached in his private investigator's role by a man who made billions in the aviation business.  Old and sick, the man has unfinished business.  Years before when he was just 18, he had gotten his girlfriend pregnant but has no idea what happened after that as his family managed to separate them.  He now wants Harry to find out what happened and if he actually has an heir to his fortune out in the world.

At the same time, Harry is caught up in a serial rapist case.  The man cuts the screens of his victim's houses and enters where he rapes the woman inside.  His victims are Hispanic and it seems that he has stalked them beforehand.  Harry recognizes that there is a pattern and starts looking for other cases, which he soon finds.  The man seems to be escalating and the police feel he can easily become a killer soon.  Can he help his new partners find this criminal before he strikes again?

This is the nineteenth Harry Bosch novel.  The serial rapist case seems to be loosely based on the Golden State Killer case.  Bosch is still defining law enforcement in his own determined fashion and he manages to work through obstacles that leave other people stymied.  Bosch fans will enjoy these new adventures that are keeping Bosch busy even after his time with the LAPD has ended.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

The Lauras by Sara Taylor

It's another night of fights in Alex's house.  But this time ends differently.  As Alex's mother storms out the door, she stops and pulls Alex out to the car also.  Off they drive into the night, and Alex doesn't know where they are going.  That's not different.  Alex's mother isn't big on talking or sharing plans.

As they drive over the next few days, it appears there is a plan.  Alex's mother is revisiting her younger days and the people that affected her then, either for good or evil.  Some are friends she made many years ago and she revisits them, renewing friendships.  Some are those who treated her badly and she confronts them.  Rarely does Alex know much about what draws her to these people although she usually shares a bit afterwards.

Alex doesn't know how long this will be and misses home.  At fourteen, Alex isn't sure of a lot of things.  Like how life will turn out, or even what gender will work.  As the weeks and months go by, Alex begins to grow up and make decisions.  There are friends to make and places to visit.  There is a father to reunite with.  Will his mother ever share her whole story?

Sara Taylor explores the parent-child bond in this dysfunctional family story.  The mother seems rootless and self-centered, willing to tear her child apart from the father and to drag her child along as she chases her past.  The whole theme of the gender confusion of the child seems a bit clumsy also and makes the book more difficult to bond with.  This book is recommended for literary fiction readers.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout

Feeling hummed in and claustrophobic in their home town of Shirley Falls, Maine, both of the Burgess men have ended up instead in New York City.  Jim is the star of the family, a lawyer whose defense work in a trial as publicized as that of the O.J. Simpson trial, made his reputation.  These days he's a partner in a huge New York law firm, serving the wealthy.  Bob has never really made a mark in life.  An early tragedy changed his life forever, leaving him unable to forget but still full of love for others.  He works as a public defender, living in a small apartment and spending his days aimlessly when he isn't working.

But its time to rally the wagons.  Their nephew, Zach, has been arrested.  Son of Bob's twin sister, Susan, he is accused of throwing a pig's head into a Muslim place of worship.  Zach is a lost soul, no friends, no real life outside of a menial job and whatever he does in his bedroom.  Susan reaches out to her brothers to help.  Even though neither wants to go back to Maine, the pull of family is strong.

Bob goes first and tries to build a relationship with Zach.  Jim comes later and uses his influence to talk to those in power and try to get the charges dismissed.  But the Somali refugees worshipping that day were terrified and are now furious.  There is talk of adding federal hate crime charges.  As the Burgess family unites to try to work out the situation, their past lives are relived as they start to learn the truths that the family has always kept hidden.

Elizabeth Strout is a Pulitzer Prize winning novelist.  In this novel, she explores family dynamics and how relationships are difficult to change, even when they are not sustaining.  She allows the reader to get an in depth view of each man's personality and the realization that all is not as it seems on the surface.  She explores the power of love and forgiveness, but also the need to hold others accountable.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Force Of Nature by Jane Harper

In this second Aaron Falk police procedural, Aaron has transferred to a corporate fraud division.  He and his new partner, Carmen, are working with an insider to uncover corporate fraud in a large company run by the Bailey family.  Falk is surprised to get a midnight call from the insider, Alice Russell, indicating that she is in trouble.  He discovers that she is off on a corporate bonding exercise in the wilderness.  When he investigates further, he is shocked to hear that Alice is missing.

There were five women in the group, given the task of surviving for a weekend by themselves.  Four of the women have made it out, although off the track of where they should have been located.  The women are in bad shape, one with a head wound, another having been snake-bit.  Jill Bailey is one of the executives of the company, a family member who never really had any other career options than the family business.  Brea and Beth are twenty-something twins, Brea an executive assistant to Alice and Beth working in the data department.  Lauren has known Alice for years as they went to the same boarding school and have daughters now that also attend it.

Although there is civility among the women in the office, it soon breaks down in the bush.  Once they stray from the path and become lost, rivalries and disagreements become rampant.  They argue about what to do and who will lead them.  Now four have returned and one has not.  Can Alice be found before something happens?  Has her insider work with the police been discovered?

This is the second novel in the Aaron Falk series.  It is another interesting peek into Australian culture and the landscape that seems to so intimately affect Australians with their can-do attitudes.  Aaron is still working out what his first case meant to him and how he has changed while Carmen provides good-natured guidance.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

The Murder Room by Michael Capuzzo

In 1990, three men involved in law enforcement met over lunch and laid out the idea of a group devoted to helping police forces solve cold crimes.  From that meeting, the Vidocq Society, named after a French real-life detective many believe was the inspiration for Sherlock Holmes.  The Society meets once a month over lunch and cases are brought up and discussed, giving the requesting law enforcement agency new avenues to investigate and new insights.  The society is still active; it accepts cases only for law enforcement.  Membership is by invitation only and is kept to 82 experts.

The book focuses on the three men who created the society.  William Fleisher was the person who was the driving force behind the group and performed most of the administrative tasks.  A customs agent who started as a policeman, working up to being a homicide detective, William saw the gap that experts in various fields that touched law enforcement could provide to detectives stumped on cases.  One of those experts was Frank Bender.  Frank never served as a policeman but was integral in solving many cases.  His expertise was recreating faces from skulls so that victims could be identified; often the stumbling block in a cold case.  The third man was Richard Walter who served for years as a forensic psychiatrist in asylums and prisons.  He has spent his life looking at the worst men can do and is considered one of the world's experts in evil.

The book is interesting not only for the look into the Society and these three men, but the insight into various cases.  Some are familiar cases, such as John List, who annihilated his entire family and was caught decades later.  Others are cases that are less familiar such as the Roger Scott Dunn case in Texas.  Dunn was killed by his live-in girlfriend and an accomplice over several days after he tried to break up with the girlfriend, Leisha Hamilton.  She is a prime example of the power anger killer that Richard Walter considers the worst of all criminal types.  There are many other cases as well and the reader will discover a wealth of information about criminal cases and the men and women who solve them.  This book is recommended to true crime readers.

Friday, April 19, 2019

The Accidental Alchemist by Gigi Pandian

Zoe Faust has moved to Portland, Oregon for a new start.  As someone who drank a magic elixir and has eternal life, she is a veteran of moving.  She moves often so that the people she meets won't start to wonder why she isn't aging.  Zoe is an herbalist and worked at one time in alchemy.  She gave up the study of alchemy after some events occurred due to her knowledge.

Now she is ready for a fresh start.  But things aren't looking good in that direction.  On her first day in her new house, the handyman she has hired to help her make it habitable is found dead on her front porch, poisoned.  Her house and belongings have been broken into and the artifacts she has been selling to support herself have been stolen.  She meets a group of teenagers who tells her that her house is known as the haunted house.  Even more unlikely, Zoe is amazed to discover that a gargoyle statue in one of her crates is alive and functional.  His name is Dorian and he has an issue that only Dorian can help with.  Can Dorian find the murderer and help Dorian break the spell that threatens his life?

This is the first novel in this series by Gigi Pandian.  There are three others in the series.  Readers will be interested to see if Zoe is successful in solving the mysteries that surround her and if she can establish a new life in Portland.  She meets a potential love interest and whether or not that continues is also of interest.  This book is recommended for mystery and fantasy readers.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Fell Of Dark by Reginald Hill

When Harry Bentink decides to go on a hiking vacation with his best friend from college, he had several reasons.  First, his friend, Peter Thorne, had just been through a rough patch in which he had lost his job and then ended up hospitalized for a nervous breakdown.  Second, Harry's marriage is in trouble and some distance seems like a good idea.

Things start off well.  Peter seems better and the company and travel bring him joy.  But things take a major turn for the worst when two girls are raped and murdered on the trail and the two men have been seen talking with them shortly before the crime.  Now the pair are under suspicion and Harry is astounded to hear that Peter has confessed to the crimes.  He is sure that Peter's confession is nothing more than a way to avoid the stress of interrogation but Harry isn't about to confess to something he hasn't done.  He escapes from the police station and decides to investigate the crime himself, all while eluding the police search for him.  Can he find the killer and retrieve his friendship with Peter?

I'm a huge Reginald Hill fan.  His Dalziel and Pascoe series is one of the best in the mystery genre of partnership mysteries.  But this novel was one of Hill's weaker efforts.  The killer's identity is easily guessed and the wit and humor in his other novels is missing.  On top of that, every woman Harry meets is apparently desperate to have sex with him which adds another layer of incredibility to the effort.  This book is written for mystery readers.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Whose Body by Dorothy Sayers

Lord Peter Wimsey is about to head out to an auction on rare books when his mother calls.  She wants him to pop around to the home of a man called Thipps who is involved in restoring the local church.  It seems there is a spot of bother in the Thipps household.  When Thipps awoke and went into the bathroom to get ready for the day, he found it already occupied.  There was a nude male body in the bathtub, with only a pair of pinze-nez spectacles.  Thipps had never seen him before but that didn't stop the local police from accusing and then arresting him.

At the same time, a rich Jewish banker has gone missing.  The man controlled entire industries such as oil or railroads.  Wimsey is called into this case as well since his mother, of course, knew the family.  After all, all the best families knew each other and each other's histories by heart. 

Wimsey, who came back from World War I shell-shocked is interested enough to look into the cases.  He is assisted by his butler, who was his Sergeant in the war, and by the local police inspector who Wimsey trusts.  Can the trio solve the mysteries?

Whose Body is the first of the Lord Wimsey mysteries.  The main character is likeable even if he represents a way of life that has faded from the limelight, one in which everyone knew everyone and the rich are just assumed to have the right to a life of idleness and doing whatever pleases them for the moment just because they are born into the right family.  Wimsey himself is self-effacing and the reader is often brought up short by his insights.  This book is recommended for mystery readers. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

The Girl Who Played With Fire by Steig Larsson

Things are going better in Lisbeth Salander's life these days.  After her work with the journalist Mikael Blomkvist that resulted in the expose of a major criminal, she finds herself wealthy due to her hacking skills.  She leaves Sweden for a year, traveling around the world.  When she returns, she buys an expensive apartment and renews contact with the few people she allows into her world.

But things never go well for Salandar very long.  Two people are murdered, a journalist and his girlfriend.  They are about to expose a major sex trafficking ring in Sweden with their vehicle Blomkvist's magazine, Millennium.  The same night, a lawyer is also murdered.  Blomkvist believes the murders are tied to the expose but the police have other ideas.  The murder weapon is left on the scene, and it has Salandar's fingerprints on it. 

Suddenly, she is the most wanted person in Sweden.  The police storm every place she is associated with and bring in every person she is known to have associated with.  Her picture and her life story are splattered across every news outlet.  Even worse, not only the police but individuals from her past are trying to find Salandar.  Can she escape her pursuers long enough to solve the case and will this bring Salandar and Blomkvist back into each other's lives?

The trilogy of novels featuring Salandar were a huge hit.  This one is the second in the series and the reader will be drawn into Salandar's world.  More of Salandar's background is revealed here and there is exposure to the world of computer hacking as well as the inside workings of a media outlet.  It is also an intricate police procedural.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Friday, April 5, 2019

Daisy In Chains by Sharon Bolton

Four women have been murdered.  All were young, all were lured away and all were women who were obese.  After an intensive investigation, a young, charismatic surgeon is arrested and convicted.  Hamish Wolfe had been known to date overweight women in college and some even hinted that he was in a club that made a practice of it in order to ridicule them.

Maggie Rose is a lawyer and true crime writer.  Her specialty is reversing the convictions of killers and she has had success with several men, now free through her work.  Hamish and the people who still support him contact her to work on his behalf but she is not convinced.  Does his story hold water?  Were the women really targeted due to their size?  The detective inspector who headed up the investigation is solidly against her taking on the case.  He seems to be attracted to her as does Hamish.  What will Maggie do?

I've only recently discovered Sharon Bolton and can only wonder how this marvelous suspense writer has escaped my notice for so long.  The twists and turns in this novel will definitely keep the reader busy and the pace is brisk, moving the story along.  There seems to be a real interest recently in examining whether murder convictions are solid with some infamous cases getting lots of press, and even a new television series about the premise.  This novel is an interesting take on that phenomena and is recommended for mystery readers.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Necessary Lies by Diane Chamberlain

Ivy is only fifteen but she is the glue that holds her family together.  Her folk are sharecroppers on a tobacco farm.  Her father was killed in a farming accident and her mother had a psychotic break afterwards and is in the state mental hospital.  She lives with her grandmother, whose health is not good, and her sister who is beautiful but mentally challenged.  Mary Ella, the sister, has already had a baby, a gorgeous little boy who is perhaps mentally challenged as well.

Jane is a new social worker.  She is newly married to a doctor who is just starting his practice and they have a lot of divergent ideas.  He really doesn't want Jane to work but she wants to use her education.  She is on birth control but dares not tell him as he wants a family right away.  He thought he was getting a country club, Junior League type of woman instead of a social worker who wears her heart on her sleeve.

Jane is given Ivy's family as part of her case load.  She is appalled to learn that Mary Ella was sterilized by the state at the time she gave birth and even worse, that she was never told that.  Now, Ivy is pregnant and Jane's supervisors want to have her sterilized as well.  Jane disagrees and can't imagine recommending it even if everyone else she knows thinks it would be best.  Can these two find a way to move forward?

This is the novelization of a real Eugenics Sterilization Program that occurred in North Carolina from 1929 to 1975.  Thousands of women were sterilized, predominantly those women of color and then those who society considered marginal due to physical or mental handicaps.  Diane Chamberlain has captured the lives of both of these women and the cultural environment that the book is set in.  Her portrayal of these characters outlines the problems and solutions of the time and will provide plenty of food for thought. This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.