Mystery/Crime

Mystery/Crime

Latest reviews

 

The Names of Dead Girls
Eric Rickstad
Reviewed by Phil
 

From the cover:
In a remote northern Vermont town, college student Rachel Rath is being watched. She can feel the stranger's eyes on her, relentless and possessive. And she's sure the man watching her is the same man who killed her mother and father years ago: Ned Preacher, a serial rapist and murderer who gamed the system to get a light sentence. Now, he's free...

The Names of Dead Girls is a cleverly plotted and suspenseful crime novel. The characters are well-developed and realistic, and their relationships with one another genuine. The story slowly unfolds as tension builds to a dramatic resolution. This is crime-writng at its best.

Note: Although The Names of Dead Girls opens just where Rickstad's earlier novel, The Silent Girls, ends, it can be read as a stand-alone thriller.

The Punishment She Deserves
Elizabeth George
Reviewed by Phil

I have to 'fess up: I am not usually a fan of Elizabeth George's work. No, that's not accurate: Her writing is excellent. It's Lynley, her main character, that I don't like. He sometimes comes across as privileged and pompous. He's a lord of sorts, after all, even though he works as a detective inspector in London's Metropolitan Police Force. But perhaps that's a testament to how good George's writing is, that a character is portrayed so vividly that he can get under your skin. Besides, the down-to-earth Detective Sergeant Havers more than makes up for Lynley's idiosyncrasies.

This is a thoroughly good read. It's set in Ludlow, a small town in the west of England. Budget cuts have been affecting the policing of the town and the police station is now largely abandoned. The local deacon, Paul Druitt, brought to the police station for questioning about a rape, is found dead in the interview room. Everything points to suicide, but...

DS Havers is sent down from London to assist the local police force with its investigations. Her job is to make sure nothing has been missed. There is political pressure being applied to clear up the case and to exonerate Druitt. But Havers has her own demons to face:  She is under a black cloud from an earlier misadventure and is threatened with a transfer to the north if she doesn't prove herself this time. Even though the case seems cut and dried, she feels she is missing something. The more she digs, the more she finds people with something to hide.

This is mystery writing at its best. There are no red herrings. Just a careful scratching at the surface, slowly revealing the details of the town, the lives of its inhabitants, and the particulars of the crime. It's a long book, but deeply engrossing. I read it in a weekend - a perfect companion.

A Midsummer’s Equation
Keigo Higashino
Reviewed by Phil

A man is found dead on a rocky shore just outside the once thriving resort town of Hari Cove. The police first rule the death an accident, but then discover the man has traces of sleeping pills in his bloodstream and that the real cause of death is carbon monoxide poisoning. Was his death an accident, or murder? Regardless, how did the body end up on the beach? And how is it connected to a murder in Tokyo 16 years ago for which a man has already done time? These are the questions that face police consultant Manabu Yukawa, in town for a forum on a planned underwater-mining operation that is dividing the local community.

This book is deftly plotted, with no red herrings, just a gentle unraveling of the twisted knot of the history and circumstance that is life. It’s very well done.

Who Watcheth
Helene Tursten
Reviewed by Phil


From the cover: "A woman is found dead in a cemetery, strangled and covered in plastic. Just a few days before her death, the victim had received a flower, an unintelligible note, and a photo of herself. Detective Inspector Irene Huss and her colleagues on the Goteburg police force have neither clue nor motive to track down in the case, and when similar murders follow, their search for the killer becomes increasingly desperate. Meanwhile, strange things have been going on at home for Irene: first the rose bush in her garden is mangled, then she receives a threatening package with no return address..."

This is the ninth and latest novel in Helene Tursten's Inspector Irene Huss series, but the first one I have read. It's a rattling good read. DI Huss is a realistic, down-to-earth character who deals with her colleagues and friends with warmth and sympathy. As the pressure mounts to bring the case to a close, Huss finds herself alone in a nighttime chase through the wilds of Sweden... It's a very gripping end to a well-written novel in a great translation. I will be recommending the series to the Whodunnit? book club.

Trace
Archer Mayor
Reviewed by Phil

All our favourite characters return in Archer Mayor's latest book, Trace, to be released in September. However, their circumstances are quite different, with Joe Gunther called away to help his mother recover from a spell of Lyme disease. Sammie is left in charge of the office, which tests her relationship with her partner Willy, who, true to form, is off pushing the boundaries of professionalism in his investigation of an attempt to sabotage military equipment. Lester Spinney investigates a cold case, discovering that the fingerprints on a gun used in a double murder were planted. Why, and by whom? Sammie investigates the murder of a young woman newly moved from Albany to Burlington: what was she running from, and why was she followed?

This is Archer Mayor at his best. The characters are rich, the cases realistic, and the telling superb. He just keeps getting better. I read the book in one sitting.

On Night's Shore
Randall Silvis
Reviewed by Phil

This is a galloping adventure set in 1840s New York featuring street urchin Augie Dubbins and a young journalist struggling to make his name, Edgar Allen Poe. There are cameo appearances from Mark Twain and James Fenimore Cooper and even Walt Whitman. This book is so much fun: it's a mystery and historical fiction combined. I couldn't put it down.

Shadow Man
Alan Drew
Reviewed by Phil


A serial killer is on the loose in a small town on the outskirts of LA. Detective Ben Wade leads the search but, when confronted with a teen suicide, he is forced to acknowledge a part of his past that he has kept hidden from everyone, even his family. This is a page-turning thriller of the highest order: well-written, fast-paced, and realistic.

The Devils of Cardona
Matthew Carr
Reviewed by Phil

Set in Spain in the late 1500s, this historical thriller is a mixture of politics, religion and murder mystery.

A priest is murdered in a small Spanish town near the French border. The town's inhabitants are mostly Moriscos, Muslims who have converted to Catholicism. Worried about the possibility of revolt in this distant province, the king sends a trusted investigator, Bernardo de Mendozo, to get to the bottom of the murder. Mendozo's investigations uncovers  a world of greed and cruelty, with the religious tensions of the region deliberately inflamed to further private gain.

The Devils of Cardona is a gripping read, with startling parallels to the present day. Carr knows his stuff, and brings this historical period to life. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

Reviews by title
The Considerate Killer
LenKaaberbol and Agnette Friis
Reviewed by Phil

On her way home from grocery shopping, Nina Borg is attacked in a car park. Half-conscious, she hears her assailant ask for her forgiveness. Only later does she understand that this isn't for what he has just done, but for what he plans to do... This is the latest in the Nina Borg series, but the first I have read. The book is set partly in the Philippines and partly in Denmark, and involves manipulation, corruption and killers on an international hunt for their victim, someone who might be able to identify them as being responsible for a tragic accident back home. A very enjoyable read.
 
The Defense
Steve Cavanagh
Reviewed by Phil

Looking for a fast-paced thriller for that lazy time by the lake? Look no further - this is a real page-turner.

Former con artist turned lawyer Eddie Flynn gave up the law a year ago after a disastrous case, and he vowed never to step foot in a courtroom again. But now he doesn't have a choice. The head of the Russian mob in New York City, on trial for murder, has kidnapped Eddie's ten-year-old daughter: Eddie has to take this case whether he likes it or not.

Using his razor-sharp wit and every con, bluff, grift, and trick in the book, Eddie has only forty-eight hours to defend an impossible murder trial. And if he loses this case, he loses everything. 

The Devils of Cardona
Matthew Carr
Reviewed by Phil

Set in Spain in the late 1500s, this historical thriller is a mixture of politics, religion and murder mystery.

A priest is murdered in a small Spanish town near the French border. The town's inhabitants are mostly Moriscos, Muslims who have converted to Catholicism. Worried about the possibility of revolt in this distant province, the king sends a trusted investigator, Bernardo de Mendozo, to get to the bottom of the murder. Mendozo's investigations uncovers  a world of greed and cruelty, with the religious tensions of the region deliberately inflamed to further private gain.

The Devils of Cardona is a gripping read, with startling parallels to the present day. Carr knows his stuff, and brings this historical period to life. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

The Infidel Strain
M.J. Carter
Reviewed by Phil

Set in London in 1841, this is a fine historical crime debut, much in the vein of a Sherlock Holmes story. Two former soldiers, veterans of various skirmishes in India, reunite to investigate a series of murders of London's sordid back-street printers. The police seem reluctant to investigate: Is the murderer being protected by the establishment? The backdrop is the Chartist movement, with its calls for a living wage for all workers and the right to vote regardless of wealth or social standing. There is political intrigue and a rich cast of characters. Carter's incredible attention to detail, both in terms of history and geography, makes this book a compelling read.
 
 
I Let You Go
Clare Mackintosh
Reviewed by Phil

On a rainy afternoon, a mother's life is shattered as her son slips from her grip and runs into the street . . .

I Let You Go follows Jenna Gray as she moves to a ramshackle cottage on the remote Welsh coast, trying to escape the memory of the car accident that plays again and again in her mind and desperate to heal from the loss of her child and the rest of her painful past.

At the same time, the novel tracks the pair of Bristol police investigators trying to get to the bottom of this hit-and-run. As they chase down one hopeless lead after another, they find themselves as drawn to each other as they are to the frustrating, twist-filled case before them. 
 
Joe Gunther Series
Archer Mayor
Reviewed by Phil
 
This is a solid, conventional murder mystery series by a Vermont author. The main protagonist, Joe Gunther, assumes diffreent roles as he grows in stature as a police officer, first with the Brattleboro police department, then with the Vermont Bureau of Investigation. These books are a great read - I usually devour each one in a single sitting.
 
Longmire
Craig Johnson
Reviewed by Phil
 
I loved the Longmire TV shows. The books are even better - the friendship between Sheriff Walt Longmire and Henry Standing Bear is explained in more detail, and Walt is an even more complex character in the novels. These are rich and satisfying reads. And did you know that the actor who plays Walt in the TV shows is Australian? Who would have guessed!

Lost and Gone Forever
Alex Grecian
Reviewed by Phil

Nevil Hammersmith owns a private detecticve agency in 1800s London, but the only crime he investigates is the disappearance of his friend Walter Day, who has been missing for a year. Hammersmith suspects that Day is being held by Jack the Ripper. Meanwhile, the day to day running of the detective agency falls to his secretary Eugenia Marrilow, and the ambitious Hatty Pitt. One by one the members of a secretive society are being murdered. What is the connection between their deaths and Day's disappearance? A mysterious pair of assassins appears to complicate matters... This is a solid mystery, well worth reading.

Malice
Kei
go Higashino
Reviewed by Phil

Kunihiko Hidaka, a famous novelist, is found murdered in his home just days before he was due to leave for an extended stay in Canada. His wife, Rie, and his best friend, Osamu Nonoguchi, are the initial suspects, but both appear to have firm alibis. Malice is an unusual mystery in that we learn very early on
 who committed the murder that lies at the heart of the story. But what really happened, and why? The unraveling of the motive for the murder becomes the mystery that draws us into the psychological battle between Police Detective Kyoichiro Kaga and the murderer. Keigo Higashino is the most widely read novelist in Japan. His books have sold millions of copies worldwide. Malice was February's selection for the Whodunnit? book club. I enjoyed the book and will look for others by Higashino.

Presumption of Guilt
Archer Mayor
Released September 27th
Reviewed by Phil

Joe Gunther is back! This is the 27th book in Archer Mayor's series and features all our old friends, Willy Kunkle - even more paranoid than usual! - Sammie Martens, Lester Spinney and Beverly Hillstrom. There is also a reprise from the Tag Man.

A skeleton is discovered during demolition work at the Vermont Yankee power station. The concrete slab in which the body is found was poured 40 years ago. Joe and his team are able to identify the body relatively quickly, but discovering a motive and the perpetrator of the crime proves more difficult. As the investigation continues, the victim's partner is found shot dead in his swimming pool, and Lester's son, also a police officer, is kidnapped. 

This is classic Archer Mayor - a thoroughly good police procedural. I read it in one sitting.


Raven Black
Ann Cleeves
Reviewed by Phil

Raven Black, set in the Shetlands, is the basis for the hit British TV series Shetland. A young girl is found dead near the home of a notorious recluse, Magnus Tait. Suspicion quickly falls on Magnus, who had been accused of involvement in the disappearance of another young girl many years before. As the story unfolds, we learn about the secrets of the islanders, their fears and prejudices, and what it is like to live in a small, isolated community where everybody knows everybody else. The first half of the novel is a little slow, but the second half more than makes up for that, keeping you guessing right until the very end.

Real Tigers
Mick Herron
Reviewed by Phil


This is the third book in Mick Herron's irreverent Slow Horses series of spy novels. Herron has won multiple awards for his previous books in the series, Slow Horses and Dead Lions. Slough House (Slow Horses) is a British spy department where incompetent operatives are retired out of harm's way. They spend their days filling forms and filing. It's a life of dreadful and unending drudgery. But then one day one of the slow horses is kidnapped, setting off a chain of events that threatens the highest officials and MI5 itself. This is a very entertaining book - I have caught myself laughing out loud several times, something I rarely do while reading. It's cheeky and funny, rude at times, poking fun at the British establishment, the spy services, and spy novels themselves. I look forward to finding the other novels in the series.

Redemption Road
John Hart
To be released in May 2016
Reviewed by Phil

This is John Hart's first novel in five years. Redemption Road has everything: crime and corruption, murder, obsession and revenge. After 13 years in prison, a police officer walks free, only to be confronted at gunpoint by the son of the woman he was convicted of killing. Across town, a women's body is discovered draped on the altar of an abandoned church. And a troubled detective risks all to save the ones she loves. Redemption Road is a great read, with mystery, suspense and thrills galore. Hart's previous novels have all been best sellers, and this latest seems destined to join that group. Welcome back, John!

Smoke and Mirrors
Elly Griffiths
Reviewed by Phil

It's 1950s Brighton, England. Two children, Annie and Mark, are reported missing, then found dead in the woods. A trail of sweets leads to the bodies. Is the local sweet shop owner the murderer? Or is this just smoke and mirrors? Does the trail link in some way with Annie's gruesome rewriting of Grimms' fairy tales? And what is the connection to an earlier murder, decades ago?

This is a great read, bringing to life a time when things moved much more slowly.
It does not have the pace of crime novels set in more modern times, but is perfect for an afternoon beside the fire...

Sydney Chambers and the Shadow of Death
James Runcie
Reviewed by Phil

Sidney Chambers is the vicar of Grantchester. He is an unconventional clergyman and can go where the police cannot. In these six interconnected mysteries, Sidney joins his friend Inspector Geordie Keating in investigating a variety of crimes. Along the way, there is conversation about beer, cricket and jazz. This book is part of the Grantchester Mysteries series. It's a gentle read, fun in places and perfect for a lazy summer afternoon sitting under the shade of a tree.


Two Days Gone
Randall Silvis
Reviewed by Phil

This us a very satisfying read, both well-plotted and well-written. The wife and children of Thomas Huston, a college professor and author, are found murdered in their home. Huston has disappeared and is immediately cast as the prime suspect. What can have caused the man to snap and destroy everything he has built?

This is a very solid police procedural, with plenty of unexpected but realistic twists. It’s a real page-turner – I read it in a couple of sittings, and look forward to reading more of Silvis’s work.

What She Knew
Gilly Macmillan
Reviewed by Phil

Gilly Macmillan's debut novel is a gripping psychological thriller set in the city of Bristol in the west of England. Rachel Jenner's eight-year-old son runs ahead on a late afternoon walk through the woods and disappears. Rachel, already reeling from a recent divorce, feels her world fall apart. A disastrous press conference serves only to turn the community against her. As the days mount up, the police investigation turns its focus on ever more suspects, but there's still no sign of Ben. It's left to Rachel to piece together the vital clues that help bring the case to its conclusion. This is an excellent read.

The Widow
Fiona Barton
Reviewed by Phil

Jean Taylor, recently widowed, was married to a man who controlled every aspect of her life. Glen, her husband, was accused of a terrible crime. How much did Jean know? Did she enable her husband? Or was she completely ignorant? With Glen's death, Jean can finally tell the stories, answer the questions, and address the suspicions that so many have had for so long about her husband. This debut novel from Fiona Barton is a great thriller. I look forward to reading more of her books.