Category Archives: mystery

The Wild Inside, by Christine Carbo

The Wild Inside, by Christine Carbo

The Wild Inside, by Christine Carbo

When Ted Systead was fourteen years old, his father was dragged out of their tent and killed by a grizzly in Glacier National Park. Years later, Ted, now working as an agent for the Department of the Interior, must help investigate a crime that brings back painful memories. A man has been killed in Glacier National Park, mauled to death by a grizzly. In this new case, it is clear that the man’s death was no accident, in that he was tied to a tree, trussed up like a present for the bear. Ted tries to keep a clear head as he investigates, aiding local officials, but he has never really gotten over the death of his father and the new crime echos his past a little too closely. Ted perseveres, and the list of suspects grows. Can Ted keep his feelings in check as he considers the clues of the crime? Ted struggles to solve the mystery as the pressure from park officials mounts to come to a quick solution and spare the park the unfortunate publicity. Set against the background of a wildly rugged natural setting, The Wild Inside is a complex tale involving an appealing protagonist. I enjoyed the story, though at times, Ted’s internal conflict took some of the emphasis away from the interesting mystery. This book will appeal to fans of C.J. Box’s Joe Pickett series, Craig Johnson’s Walt Longmire series, and Nevada Barr’s Anna Pigeon series. A promising mystery debut.

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A Killing at Cotton Hill, by Terry Shames

A Killing at Cotton Hill, by Terry Shames

A Killing at Cotton Hill, by Terry Shames

Samuel Craddock, retired police chief in the town of Jarrett Creek, Texas, gets a late night call from his elderly neighbor, Dora Lee Parjeter. Dora Lee is worried that someone is spying on her, but Dora Lee has a long history of calling Samuel with groundless fears. Yet, the next morning, Dora Lee is found dead, stabbed to death in her own kitchen, and Samuel Craddock is left with a terrible case of guilt. Since the town’s current chief of police is known to be an incompetent drunk, Samuel takes responsibility for investigating Dora Lee’s death. The prime suspect is Dora Lee’s grandson, Greg, and Samuel is pretty sure the kid isn’t guilty. Samuel starts digging into Dora Lees affairs, and finds that she is deep in debt and has a parcel of discontented family members. Soon, Samuel has his hands full with trying to keep Greg out of jail, getting Dora Lee properly buried, and keeping her family matters in some sort of order while trying to find her killer.

This is a terrific debut novel for fans of Agatha Christie. It is a gentle mystery, that is, one without graphic violence or situations. Yet, this is not a group of knitting circle ladies solving a mystery. This is a good, solid mystery with a serious, intelligent investigator. Samuel may live in a small town, but he’s capable of solving big crimes. The other people in the town are well-developed, interesting characters. And there are cows! I love cows.

I look forward to more Samuel Craddock mysteries. This is book one of what is already a four book series.

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Cop Town, by Karin Slaughter

Cop Town, by Karin Slaughter

Cop Town, by Karin Slaughter

Kate Murphy is determined to be a police officer. Recently widowed, Kate has failed at all the other jobs she’s tried. If she doesn’t find a way to succeed in the Atlanta Police Department, then she’s going to have to go home to her rich family and admit defeat. That wouldn’t be so bad, for some people, but Kate feels the need to stand on her own two feet and find her own life. And this is a fine attitude, except Kate has chosen to become a female police officer in 1974, at a time when a cop killer is driving the Atlanta police force into a frenzy. Unless she is very careful, Kate may not last through her very first day.

Maggie Lawson is having her own difficult time on the police force. She isn’t a rooky cop, but she’s overshadowed by her domineering uncle Terry and the unpredictable actions of her brother Jimmy, both police officers as well. When Jimmy’s partner, Don Mosley, is killed by the unknown cop killer, Maggie’s life starts to come unglued. Lucky for her that she is partnered with newby officer Kate, because together, the two may just solve the cop killer murders and find the confidence to hold their heads high in their chosen career.

Cop Town is the first book I’ve read by Karin Slaughter. And I will have to tell you I was very impressed. Ms. Slaughter has a bold, clear writing style that is easy to read, yet also conveys a great deal of information with very few words. She is a master at creating dynamic characters, and I was very impressed with her setting choice of Atlanta in 1974. This is a hard time in history to pull off well. Women were new to the work force, in many ways, and many of the workplaces were ruled by men. Political correctness was not so correct, and people did not have cell phones on every corner to record misdeeds and random events. Yet, Ms. Slaughter created two very different, yet very powerful women who were able to come together, in spite of their differences, to work together well and succeed in this setting. The dynamics of the female relationships in this book are superb.

I will say that, for me, this was not a mystery, but rather a thriller, and I prefer a good mystery. Yet the setting and writing style of this book was enough to make me try another Karin Slaughter title, in spite of that fact. Excellent writing, an unusual setting, and wonderful female characters. Highly enjoyable.

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Sunset Express, by Robert Crais

Sunset Express, by Robert Crais

Sunset Express, by Robert Crais

Teddy Martin–rich, famous, and entitled–is facing murder charges, accused of brutally murdering his wife. His high-powered, high-priced team of lawyers dives into the investigation, determined to prove Teddy innocent. Enter Elvis Cole, the World’s Greatest Detective. Elvis wears Hawaiian shirts and is known to crack the wise. Yet underneath that sometimes irreverent exterior is a hard working, intelligent private eye. Elvis is tasked with proving that LAPD Detective Angela Rossi tampered with evidence in the case. With the help of his partner, Joe Pike, Elvis wades through evidence and witnesses. Soon, he begins to suspect that someone else is involved in tampering with evidence in the case. As Elvis and Joe get closer to the truth, they may find that the truth is more than they bargained for.

This is book six in the Elvis Cole series by author Robert Crais. If you have not read any of these excellent books, this is a very good book to start with. Not only does Elvis have a compelling case to investigate, but Joe Pike (who is one of my favorite characters of the series) gets some time to shine. Robert Crais’ characters are always complete people, in that they seem to be alive on the page for me. Even the most minor characters have their own memorable spark. The latest Elvis Cole/Joe Pike book was supposed to released in April 2015, but has been delayed until November. So you have time to start from the beginning and read all the books before the new one is available. I adore the author’s work. Mr. Crais, I don’t even mind (very much) that your next title is delayed. When “The Promise” is finally in my hot little hands, it will be a very good day.

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Rain Reign, by Ann M. Martin

Rain Reign, by Ann M. Martin

Rain Reign, by Ann M. Martin

Rose Howard loves two things: homonyms and her dog, Rain. Homonyms are words that sound alike but are spelled differently. Rose and rows are homonyms, and Rain has two homonyms, reign and rein. Rain, a yellow dog with seven white toes, is a gift from Rose’s father, Wesley Howard, who found the dog wandering lost in the rain. Rose and Rain become inseparable, as Rose’s dad is often away at work, or down the street at the local bar, and Rose is lonely. Life is good for Rose; she has her homonyms, she has Rain, and she has visits from her favorite uncle, Weldon. Until one day, Hurricane Susan, the storm of the century, arrives, and Rose’s dad let’s Rain outside in the storm without her collar or tags. Rain is lost in the hurricane, and Rose is devastated. Rose devises a plan to find Rain, and when her plan goes into action, she finds that Rain may still belong to someone else who loves her. Rose will have to be especially brave to deal with the situation, and her life may never be the same.

This is a story about a girl and a dog. While there are many stories out there about girls and dogs, this one is special because Rose is special. Rose is a high functioning autistic, and she has special challenges in her life. In addition to her unique way of experiencing the world, she also has a difficult home situation with a father who struggles to manage his own life, with little patience left over for Rose. The story, told from Rose’s, shows you her challenges in dealing with life, and let’s you see her wonderful, loving complexity. All I can say, without spoiling the story, is that Rose is possibly the bravest, most caring person I know. (Real or imagined.) I can’t recommend this book highly enough. If you’re looking for a similar books, aimed at adults, try “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time.” This one also features an autistic protagonist. In this case, he solves a troubling mystery and at the same time, he learns more about his connection to his family and to the rest of the world.

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Five, by Ursula Archer

Five, by Ursula Archer

Five, by Ursula Archer

A woman’s body is discovered in a meadow, with numbers and letters tattooed on the bottoms of her feet. Detective Inspector Beatrice Kaspary from the local homicide squad determines that the tattoo actually gives map coordinates. Still, police are baffled…what does it mean? Kaspary and her team realize that the coordinates are meant to locate a geocache–a sort of treasure hidden for hobbyists to find. The treasure they find at the tattoo coordinates turns to be a man’s severed hand. Now, the hunt becomes much more serious…the team may now be tracking a serial murderer. More geocache coordinates “clues” are found, revealing more body part treasures at each of the sites. Somewhere during the hunt, the killer takes note of Beatrice, and suddenly the quest to find the person responsible takes on a much more ominous tone.

This book was set in Austria. Some of the Scandinavian mysteries I’ve read are a little off-putting to me due to how they dwell on local culture or political issues, to which I cannot relate. With this title, I did not have that problem. I genuinely liked this book; it is a clever, skillful debut, complete with a likable heroine. I thought the geocaching spin was fresh and inventive. I look forward to more of the author’s work.

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The Ploughmen, by Kim Zupan

The Ploughmen, by Kim Zupan

The Ploughmen, by Kim Zupan

Every once-in-awhile, I discover a book that I think is one thing, and it turns out to be quite another. Oftentimes, this is a source of great disappointment to me, and I usually do not finish the book. With “The Ploughmen,” by Kim Zupan, I thought I was going to get a Western, or a Western mystery.  And yet, in this case, I got a story that refused to fit any category, and yet one with lit up my brain with joy as I read it.

The story is set in Montana, and involves a hardened career murder and a morally upright deputy. John Gload, when we first meet him, is hard at work killing people. Gload is a master of disposing bodies so they will likely never be found, and if found, rarely identified. It is clear as the story unfolds that he has been killing people for a very long time. Some of the people in the story he kills for monetary gain. But the vast majority of the people he kills just because he doesn’t like them, or perhas just because he can.

One day, John Gload’s luck runs out, and authorities tie him to a murder. Police arrest him and he sits in the jail, awaiting trial. Enter Valentine Millimaki, a troubled deputy who is unable to comprehend how his marriage is in the process of ending. His job is to sit, during the long Montana nights, in the jail with John Gload and make sure he and the other prisoners in the cell block have a safe and restful night. John Gload, however, suffers from chronic insomnia, and before long, he and Valentine have started talking. Through their conversations, we get a glimpse of the complicated inner lives of both men. And when John Gload decides he has had enough of prison, we get to see the true natures of the two men as they deal with the cards they’ve been dealt.

I can categorize this book more by what it’s not than what it is. It’s not a Western, it’s not a mystery, and it’s not a thriller. It *is* a beautifully told book, one that will bring the Montana wilderness come to life in your mind’s eye, a tale that will explore the depths of the human heart. Mr. Zupan’s bio says he’s worked as a carpenter for 25 years while working on his writing. I would say that his work was quite excellently done.

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The Life We Bury, by Allen Eskens

The Life We Bury, by Allen Eskens

The Life We Bury, by Allen Eskens

College student Joe Talbert needs to interview a stranger in order to complete a paper for an English class. Joe heads to the local nursing home, and there, he meets Carl Iverson, a Vietnam vet and convicted killer, now come to die outside of the prison walls. Carl, convicted of the rape and murder of a young girl thirty years ago, is a daunting subject for Joe, but intriguing. And Joe, sincere and young and respectful, seems to be just the person to draw Carl’s story from the taciturn man. Carl’s story is compelling, and Joe begins to wonder if Carl is as guilty of murder as everyone seems to believe. And as Joe investigates, we begin to see that Joe may carry his own burden of guilt over a difficult episode from his past.

This is an excellent mystery, written in a compelling, readable style. Joe is likable and it is clear that he genuinely cares about Carl as he tries to find the truth in his story. Both characters, Joe and Carl, share burdens of guilt that bind them together. The pacing of the story is good, and I found myself reading late into the night to finish. As Carl’s life draws to a close, we see Joe rise through his difficulties to become something more. A wonderful debut.

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Leaving Time, by Jodi Picoult

Leaving Time, by Jodi Picoult

Leaving Time, by Jodi Picoult

Jenna Metcalf is thirteen years old, lives with her grandmother and regularly visits her dad in the mental hospital. Yet, in spite of all the emotional drama that this could create, Jenna is fine with her life except for one small detail; her mother, Alice, disappeared ten years ago and no one can seem to find her. Is she dead, or has she run away, leaving her daughter behind? Jenna has to know the truth. Her mother was once an esteemed researcher on elephant grief, and she would never leave her research or her elephants willingly. Jenna has made no real progress to find out what really happened, and so she enlists the aid of a down-and-out psychic and an alcoholic private investigator. Together, they find her mother’s journal, and revisit the past to recreate the events leading up to the day Alice disappeared. As they start to put the puzzle together, they begin to realize that the truth might be something truly unexpected.

“Leaving Time” is a story of a mother’s mysterious disappearance, a daughter with questions, a washed-up psychic, and a world-weary detective; their stories weaving through the lives of the elephants who also share the tale. I really had a hard time deciding if I liked the human or elephant characters best. I particularly enjoyed how Ms. Picoult wove tidbits of elephant life into the story, and used those facts to highlight tidbits and truths in the lives of the humans involved. Beautiful, thoughtful, wise, and wonderful: “Leaving Time” is not to be missed.

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Rooms, by Lauren Oliver

rooms

Rooms, by Lauren Oliver

Richard Walker has just died, and his family is soon to arrive to start making the final arrangements for his funeral and for the sale of his empty home. Richard Walker’s family is not aware that Richard Walker’s home is not empty at all: It is the home of two ghosts, Alice and Sandra. Ghosts, as we know from the horror movies marathons from our youth, have reasons for their hauntings. They have baggage, and that baggage holds them back from leaving for the great beyond. Richard Walker’s family arrive: his ex-wife Caroline, troubled son Trenton, and unforgiving daughter Minna. Turns out, the living have their own share of baggage, and that baggage can hold them back from truly living their lives. As Caroline, Trenton, and Minna start to slough through all of Richard’s left behind stuff, they are forced to confront their own issues and unanswered questions. Watching it all, Alice and Sandra are confronting a few issues of their own.

At the heart, this is a book about forgiveness and letting go. “Rooms” gives us a glimpse into the hearts of both the living and the ghosts of the dead, as they all struggle with accepting their lives as they played out. An enjoyable read, simply because of the interesting telling. Perhaps, with this title, there were too many voices telling their tales, for I found I wasn’t terribly invested in any of them by the end. However, that might have been the point…to give us a larger view of these individual lives. And in providing such a view, the author succeeded very well.

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