Tuesday, February 9, 2010

February 2010 Reading

1. THE ROSE RENT by Ellis Peters. #13 Brother Cadfael medieval mystery. When one of Shrewsbury Abbey's young monks is found brutally murdered under a rose bush at a property that the abbey is using (for the yearly sum of one white rose from that bush paid to the young widow who owns it) Cadfael and Sheriff Hugh Beringar are busily investigating, trying to figure out who stood to gain by the abbey missing their rent payment. When the widow herself, Judith Perle, goes missing, they figure it's one of the many townsmen who have been wooing her in hopes of gaining access to the family's very profitable business, which she has been sole owner of since her husband's death. The widow, however, is not interested in marriage to any of them, so the sleuths' thoughts are that perhaps one of them intended to persuade her by force. But which? Another stellar entry in this wonderful series that sets time and place so well, you feel as though you are right there, watching Cadfael tend his herb gardens, decocting his potions and salves, and ruminating on the latest mystery. A

2. WILFUL BEHAVIOUR by Donna Leon #11 Commissario Guido Brunetti mystery set in Venice, Italy. One of Guido's wife Paola's university students asks her if she can talk to Guido about a person being pardoned for a crime committed years previously, but asks in such vague terms that Guido tells Paola to have the girl speak to him directly. She does, and from what she tells him, gleans some clues to figure out who she's speaking about and starts inquiring among his older friends about the man he believes to be her grandfather, and his dealings during and after WWII. And then, just a couple of days later, the girl is brutally stabbed to death in her apartment. It seems too coincidental not to be related to the girl's inquiries to Guido, but of course he must investigate every aspect of Claudia Leonardo's life to find out if it might have been something else--something personal--that brought her to such a violent death. As often occurs in Leon's books, the justice that is meted out is not always the legal kind. Enjoyable visit to Leon's wonderfully atmospheric Venice, as always. A.

3.BEFORE THE FROST by Henning Mankell. (AUDIO) This is a stand-alone mystery featuring Swedish Detective Kurt Wallander's daughter Linda, a new police recruit. Actually she hasn't even started her first job as a patrol officer yet when her old friend Anna Westin disappears. Always conscientious, when Anna doesn't appear for a meeting she set up with Linda and remains incommunicado for several days, Linda investigates on her own before even mentioning it to her father, who pooh-poohs her worry initially, believing that Anna has decided to pursue her long-lost father, whom she believes she saw in Malmo a couple of days previously. But when Linda begins paging through Anna's journal for clues to where she might be and discovers the name of an older woman reported missing by her daughter, her find is definitely of more interest to Kurt Wallander. When Anna further questions those closest to Anna--since her friendship with her childhood friend has only been recently renewed--she begins to wonder how well she really knew her at all. And when the missing older woman's body turns up decapitated and with her hands removed, a new terror strikes Linda that Anna may have met the same fate. This mystery really wasn't much of one, as we are taken into the mind of the perpetrator on several occasions and it was painfully obvious who it was right from the start. I didn't really like Linda Wallander very much--not only because she seemed at times much younger and more immature than her nearly 30 years, but because she was very changeable and it was difficult to get a bead on just who she was. The book jacket indicates that this is the first in a new series, but it was initially published eight years ago and I don't see a followup anywhere--which is just as well, as I'd likely have given it a miss. Mankell's evocative writing made me listen on, and the reader was quite skillful as well, but the story itself wasn't that good and since I didn't like the main character much, I wouldn't have remained interested beyond this book, I don't think. C+

4.SLEEPLESS by Charlie Huston. I'm not sure how to describe or even classify this book. Part mystery, part sci-fi/fantasy, part dystopian fiction, Sleepless is set in the present, but with an alternative near-past. There is a voracious new plague out there, but it won't kill you outright. It involves a brain prion related loosely to 'mad cow disease' and something called FFI--Fatal Familial Insomnia, which oddly enough I'd just been reading about a few weeks before. Basically, you get the prion, it starts eating holes in your brain and soon you simply cannot sleep. At all. Ever. Until you die a while down the road, having suffered horrible hallucinations, delusions, memory lapses, the whole gamut of what happens with sleep deprivation. This is the story of two people--Parker, a Los Angeles policeman whose wife Rose is sleepless, and who fears his infant daughter may also be infected, and Jasper, an ex-military mercenary of some type who does 'odd jobs' for high-paying clients--mostly procuring difficult to come by things. Parker, an undercover cop posing as a drug dealer to try to get close to the person who is selling black market DR33M3R, the drug that combats the sleepless prion, stumbles on a gory mass murder at a 'gold farming operation' (which is related to the video gaming industry and will take too long to explain) and walks off with the hard drive that Jasper's employer wants. Their paths are bound to intersect and they do. This is a bleak and hopeless scenario as Huston's books usually are, but with a kernel of hope and a whiff of the possibility of goodness, or at least survival. Picture a country near martial law, with the basics we have come to rely on in short supply, gangs of insane sleepless, zomboid people roaming the streets, with shortages and chaos becoming the norm. Imagine a time when it's no longer quite so easy to 'do the right thing' because doing the wrong thing is the only way to survive. Imagine a world where it is infinitely more appealing to immerse yourself in an online game because the real world no longer makes sense. There are times when the book is confusing, as it switches back and forth between Jasper and Parker's point of view, and sometimes it isn't clear who's who until a few paragraphs in. There are also things that might be confusing to those who aren't acquainted with MMORPG games. I have noticed a pattern with my reaction to every book of Huston's I've read: first I start devouring it, mid-book I want to throw it against the wall, and by the end, he's got me thinking, deeply thinking, and I end up reflecting on things for a good while to come. This book was no exception. It's not a book to be 'enjoyed' but it is another great story. A

5. SLEEP WITH THE FISHES by Brian Wiprud. Stand-alone mystery featuring Sid "Sleep" Bifulco, ex-con who shunned the government's offer of Witness Protection and opts to set out on his own, trying to stay away from multiple Mafia baddies who have good reason to ice him--since he rolled over on them! After seven years inside, he buys a small cottage on a river and hopes to begin leading a quiet life fishing--something he's never done but which he became interested in while in prison and read everything he could on the subject, even to the point of learning how to tie his own flies. But moving to small-town America where everyone knows everyone else's business may not have been the best idea Sid's ever had. Soon the quirky townspeople are nosing around and hit men are on the way to try to deal Sid a little retribution. And a strange coincidence tying Sid to the local fishing guide was just way too implausible to believe. I really didn't like this book very much--I enjoy Wiprud's Garth Carson (taxidermy) series quite a lot, but am not overly fond of mafia books to begin with, and the humor in this one just felt very forced and mostly not-funny. I finished it because it was a very quick, easy read, but I can't say I would recommend it. Not horrible, just...not so good. C.

6. THE TALE OF HOLLY HOW by Susan Wittig Albert. (AUDIO) #2 in the Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter cozy historical series. Beatrix is buying a few sheep to make Hilltop Farm more profitable, and also adding on to the farmhouse so that the farmer who's been managing the property can stay on with his family and not displace Beatrix herself. When the shepherd is found dead, at first presumed accidentally, at the bottom of a cliff, Beatrix (who found the body) investigates on the sly. The village is also trying to work through issues of choosing a new head teacher for the local school--the woman who's been filling in until a formal choice could be made is doing a marvelous job and was presumed to be the person to choose, until the local village Lady steps in and tries to ramrod her own choice--an Oxford educated missionary--though the selection committee, causing no end of hard feelings. Cozy, light and with 'talking animals' (to each other, anyway) this series won't appeal to everyone, and actually is not one I thought I'd like. But listening to the audio versions is actually very enjoyable with the excellent reader. I'm not sure I'd enjoy it so much in print, but as long as my library has the audio versions, I'll keep listening on. I don't know that much about Beatrix Potter, but it seems as though this has been fairly well researched. B+

7. A GRAVE IN GAZA by Matt Beynon Rees. #2 Omar Yussef Sirhan mystery set in the Middle East, this time in Gaza where Omar Yussef has gone with a UN delegation to inspect a school there. He is a history teacher and the principal at a UN school in Bethlehem, his hometown, so the other delegates feel he will have valuable observations. Their visit starts off on a troubling note--one of the teachers at the school has been arrested, not for his school work, but because he also worked part-time as a university lecturer and apparently spoke out against the university. In a short time, Omar finds himself in a sticky, complicated political situation with warring factions pulling strings behind the scenes. He desperately wants to help the imprisoned man, especially after meeting his family. When one of the UN delegates is kidnapped, Omar has no idea who could be behind it, with equally corrupt security groups vying for power on the war-torn Gaza strip. He isn't even sure the kidnapping is related to the teacher's imprisonment--it may be some other totally different incident between these various powerful men. His friend, the police chief of Bethelem, is in Gaza for a convention and Omar is forced to rely on him and his bodyguard, Sami, who know the ins and outs of Gaza politics much better than he does, although he doesn't fully trust them. A complicated and at times ugly (and probably realistic) view of this area, the culture, the reality of existence there. The book is written in an easy to read style, with a believable and likable main character, although it isn't always easy to understand him from a cultural standpoint. Sometimes he accepts things that to me seem just horrible as a matter of course, but I'm sure that's due to the vast cultural gulf between us. I have really enjoyed this series to date and will definitely be continuing on. A

8. HERESY by Sharan Newman. #8 Catherine LeVendeur historical mystery set in France. Catherine, once again pregnant, sets out to help her friend Astrolabe, son of the infamous Heloise and Abelard. He became entangled with a group of heretics and is being pursued by an old enemy of his father's who hopes to frame him for the murder of a nun. Edgar and Solomon are off to Spain on a business trip and Catherine and the children are off to the Paraclete with Astrolabe disguised as one of their guards, and eventually end up attending a conference in Reims. While I do enjoy this series and have come to be quite fond of the characters, I find the endless struggles with various religious factions, heretics, discussions about Heloise and Abelard and Catherine's father's family being secretly Jewish and all that to have become somewhat tiresome. So many of these stories tie back to the same issues over and over again. The endless waffling about them has gotten old.There are two books left in the series and I will finish them, but I do hope there will be something new and different or that several of these threads will be tied up and resolved. B-

9. OUR LADY OF IMMACULATE DECEPTION by Nancy Martin. #1 Roxy Abruzzo mystery, featuring modern girl Roxy, who is (for lack of a better description) an architectural scavenger by trade, gleaning what she can from the aftermath of fires, buildings set for destruction, etc. When the owner of a burned-out mansion ends up shot to death shortly after talking with Roxy at the site, she and her not-too-bright-but-muscley assistant Nooch are both being questioned by the cops. And since Roxy's uncle is big in the local Mafia, she's always learned to be leery of cops. Besides, she did take a big Greek or Roman statue that is apparently worth a lot more than she originally thought, and definitely wasn't on her approved list. Soon several family members and the family lawyer are trying to find the statue of Achilles, Roxy's getting shot at, and her uncle Carmine wants her to start "running errands" for him and sends her a wad of cash as an advance. Since her daughter Sage's school tuition is overdue, it's very tempting, but that situation is then complicated when Sage (who is seventeen) thinks she may be pregnant. I finished this book, but mostly because it was a book I received to review. The writing style was easy enough to read, but it just wasn't that interesting to me--perhaps I'm older than the target audience because I just felt rather curmudgeonly reading about the over-sexed Roxy hopping into bed with every other guy she met, and yet somehow managing to be indignant when here daughter suspected she was pregnant. And really, I don't need repeated descriptions of her nice ass, steamy truck windows, and other cheesy sex scenes. I'm not a prude by any stretch of the imagination, but I intensely hate gratuitous sex and so-called romance. Bah. Roxy, who I think was supposed to come off as a tough, independent, rebellious "modern" woman, just came of as a wishy-washy boring floozy. (OMG, I used the word floozy! I must be getting old!) The other characters (the book was told alternately from several different POV) were equally inane--the crooked family lawyer trying to work an angle to retain the most money, the anorexic, Xanax-popping artsy-fartsy niece of the dead man, the jilted ex-wife (who is the one who burned down the house when she caught her husband with a barely-legal pop tart) and so on. I couldn't get interested. I didn't really care whodunit. This is the first book I've read by this author and unless someone actually pays me to read another, it will be the last. D+

10. AUGUST HEAT by Andrea Camilleri. #10 Inspector Salvo Montalbano Italian police procedural series set in Sicily. Salvo's girlfriend Livia asks him to rent a beach house for her friend Laura and family, so he does some searching and comes up with the perfect place. But the family is plagued by a host of pests--cockroaches, rats, spiders, and finally, a dead body in a trunk in a hidden sub-basement apartment that had been built illegally several years before. The body is that of a brutally murdered young woman, wrapped in plastic and stuffed in the trunk, and of course Salvo must investigate. Which he has plenty of time to do, as Livia and her friends leave in rather a huff. Who is the culprit--the man who had the house built or his crazy-acting son--both of whom are now dead? Or the building contractor or one of his employees? Or someone else? Montalbano struggles through a hot and sweaty August contemplating, swimming, eating until he comes up with the clue that gives him the answer. An enjoyable visit to Montalbano's world, as always. A.

11. HEMLOCK AT VESPERS by Peter Tremayne. An early collection of fifteen short stories about Sister Fidelma, the 7th-century nun and dalaigh (lawyer) in Ireland. I enjoy this series of medieval mysteries so was quite interested in seeing where Fidelma came from and how she developed. I found these stories to be mostly repetitive and unsatisfying, though. Much ground was covered over and over again; in every story, there was mention of the Fidelma's "unruly strands of red hair that escaped from her head-dress," (often using the same exact phraseology) and much time was spent explaining her law degrees and how much authority she had, with appropriate shock from pompous male authority figures when they were told she could boss them around. LOL Probably read individually with much time between them, these stories would have been pleasant little interludes. Cobbled together into one book, I found them mostly formulaic and yawn-worthy after the first couple, although there was some interesting information about Fidelma's past. I was also disappointed that Brother Eadulf, the Saxon monk who works with Fidelma in the series, was nowhere in evidence yet. In short, I wouldn't recommend reading this book straight through as I did. If you're a Fidelma fan, you'll enjoy them, but it's probably best if you put the book down for a few days/weeks between stories. I have a couple of other short-story collections that occur later in the series, and that's how I plan to read those books instead of just plowing through them. C+

12. LAST WORDS by George Carlin with Tony Hendra. This book was described by Carlin himself as his "sortabiography" which was many years in the writing. He worked with Hendra over a dozen-year span with the book put on the back burner many times, and was finally put together and completed after George's death in 2008. To be honest, I didn't know much about George Carlin's personal life, his childhood, his past or anything aside from the bits he let leak out in his comedy routines and books. This was an interesting foray back in time, told mostly in George's own words about his Irish Catholic upbringing in New York, his desire since childhood to be a performer, about having to toe the line in the 50's and 60's and not make waves to get anywhere, and how he went from being various comedic characters to just allowing his own self to bust out of the cocoon he'd been wrapped in to produce the George Carlin we know and love (or hate.) He talks about his prolific drug use, the love of his life (his wife of thirty-six years, Brenda) and what it was like trying to make a living as a comedian/performer back from the days of radio and early television and performing live in clubs. It's funny that, while I always looked at George as young and hip and as a contemporary, really he was only a few years younger than my own parents. While I enjoyed the book and the insights it provides, in some ways it reinforced for me why I am not a big reader of biographies, autobiographies, memoirs and the like. I mostly don't want to know all the sordid details about my favorite performers, singers, authors...I want to simply enjoy the 'product' of the artist/performer/writer without prejudice, without knowing all about how and why that product came to be. And yet, of course, a book like this does provide greater understanding, a little clarity to the origin of Carlin's years of political and social statements and attitudes thinly dolled up as humor. And if you're a fan of Carlin as I am, this is an essential read--so read it, even if (like me) you really didn't wanna. If you're just looking for more of his trademark humor, this isn't the place where you'll find it--although there are smatterings of it, this is mostly about the man behind the mouth. I'm still not sure if I like him as a person or not--but I love his message. B+

13. KITTY RAISES HELL by Carrie Vaughn. #6 Kitty Norville paranormal mystery, featuring werewolf Kitty who hosts a night-time radio show called The Midnight Hour, where all things paranormal are discussed. Kitty and her packmate and now husband Ben are back in Denver from their harrowing honeymoon trip to Vegas only to find that what happened in Vegas did NOT stay in Vegas! She ticked off the Cult of Tiamat, a pack of lycanthropes headed by an ancient vampire priestess, and they've set something after her. Something that smells of brimstone, causes spontaneous combustion of things and people and something that seems like pure evil--and it's after her. Working together with a team of paranormal investigators from a popular TV show, Kitty hopes to solve the problem by first identifying what the thing is, and then by learning how to stop it. As her circle of friends and trusted acquaintances broadens, she realizes that she has a lot more help at her disposal and doesn't have to do everything on her own. Still, new threats loom in the form of an ancient vampire named Roman who says he knows how to stop the demon-thing, but will only help her for a price. Denver's vampire boss Rick absolutely refuses to have anything to do with him, and Kitty much choose where her loyalties lie--to the tentative truce made with Rick, or by cooperating with Roman to learn how to get rid of the demon and thus keep the pack safe. I enjoy this paranormal series very much and liked this one better than the last (which felt a bit "off" to me) and am looking forward to the next. A.

14. COLD IS THE GRAVE by Peter Robinson. (AUDIO) #11 Chief Inspector Alan Banks British police series set in the Yorkshire Dales. Alan is contacted privately by his arch nemesis, his boss, Chief Constable Jimmy Riddle to locate his teenage daughter Emily. Emily is sixteen (going on thirty!) and had debunked to London several months previously. The family wasn't overly worried as Emily had always been older than her years and knew how to survive) but when Riddle's young son spots a pornographic photo of Emily in a pop-up on the computer, he becomes worried and wants Emily located--but due to his political aspirations, he can't do this publicly since he fears scandal. Although Riddle hates Banks, he knows he's the best man for the job and promises Alan he'll get off his back if he's successful in locating Emily. Banks does the job, finding Emily posing under the name Louisa Gamine and living with a much older gangster type fellow. Eventually he brings Emily back to Eastvale and delivers her safely home, only to have her turn up dead in the toilet of a local dance club a month or so later, dead of strychnine, the poison having been laced in her cocaine. Banks' attention immediately goes to the gangster--whom he's also investigating in possible connection with another murder case involving smuggling--but did he really care enough about Emily to kill her in such a brutal way? Or was this something more personal? I enjoy this series a lot, and have really enjoyed these last couple in audio format with a great reader (Ron Keith) so will likely continue on listening as long as they are available from my library. I didn't take the red herring that Robinson threw out for this one, but guessing the baddie didn't in any way diminish the enjoyment. A.

15. BELSHAZZAR'S DAUGHTER by Barbara Nadel. #1 Cetin Ikmen mystery set in modern-day Istanbul, Turkey. Inspector Ikmen is unlike any other sleuth I've come across so far in some ways--(mostly) happily married, father of eight, dedicated to his work. And yet in other ways, he resembles favored inspectors everywhere--a bit rebellious and unconventional in his methods, maneuvering around his mostly incompetent or politically motivated bosses, and able to ferret out the subtle clues to find justice for the murdered. Chain-smoking, brandy-drinking Ikmen and his handsome young sergeant, Mehmet Suleyman, are after a particularly cruel killer--someone who beat and tortured a ninety-year-old man and then poured sulfuric acid down his throat while he was still alive. Little is known about Leonid Meyer, except that he was a Russian Jew, living in a drunken squalor for many years. Due to the personal nature of the murder, Ikmen of course believes that his demise was tied to his past, and when clues start coming forth leading all the way back to the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917-18, he consults his elderly father, Timur, who speaks and reads Russian. The story switches points of view several times, sometimes being told by Robert Cornelius, an Englishman teaching in a local school who happened to be in the area where the murder was committed who is in thrall to a young woman in the family Ikmen is taking a close look at for the crime. There are also brief parts told from Suleyman's point of view as well as Natalia's (Cornelius' lover) and other members of her family and others. I enjoyed this first entry in the series, and definitely enjoyed the cultural detail and the historical aspect of the story, but all the jumping around between differing points of view got confusing and made it hard to identify strongly with any given character. I will definitely be reading on and look forward to getting to know Ikmen and the supporting cast better. B+

16. HER ROYAL SPYNESS by Rhys Bowen. #1 Lady Georgiana mystery set in 1932 England, featuring minor royal (there are more than thirty people ahead of her in line to the throne) "Georgie," who is recently come of age, quite penniless, and who heads from her family's castle in Scotland to London to strike out on her own, hoping to avoid an arranged marriage with some obscure European prince or playing lady-in-waiting to one of the princesses. Georgie stays alone in the family's London house and as her sister-in-law Fig who holds the purse strings is loathe to spring for the cost of a maid, she must learn to "do" for herself without servants for the first time in her young life. She visits her Cockney grandfather, father to her actress mother (who's been married several times and flits around the Continent) who teaches her how to lay a fire, and Georgie muddles through things like bed-making, dusting and dressing herself. Eventually she decides to open a maid service, but it's difficult when many of her potential customers would recognize her and be totally appalled to see even a minor royal in such a role. She meets up with an old school friend who is also striking out on her own as a clothing designer, but things turn ugly when Georgiana's half brother Binky (the duke) comes to London on business and shortly thereafter, a Frenchman who'd come calling the previous day is floating dead in their bathtub! The police don't seem terribly interested in looking much beyond Binky or Georgie as their suspects (and there is motive!) so Georgie sets out herself to find who else might have wanted the man dead. I have to say when I first started reading this, I was a bit dismayed--I just am not into all the "hoity toity" posh English stuff, old bean, and the proper language and mannerisms can drive me up the wall. The fact that it is Rhys Bowen writing this saved it, I think. She's one of my favorite writers and I've enjoyed her other series and her writing style very much. Georgie's plucky character saves it somewhat too, and even though the fact that she must adhere to and abide by most of the conventions of the day, she does break away to some degree and do things her own way. Her helplessness at first was rather a turn-off, but her perseverance endeared her to me in the end, especially as I realized that she really couldn't help but be a product of her upbringing to a certain degree. Makes me glad all over again that I never had to live in such a society! The mystery itself was a no-brainer, and one historical blooper I caught was Georgie dialing "999" when she had a prowler at her home, and that service wasn't initiated in London until at least five years later. This was a light easy read that I came to enjoy more as I got through the book, and snapped it shut with a rather satisfying feeling. I've got the next two in this series already waiting, and most certainly will read on. B+

17. HORSEFEATHERS AND OTHER CURIOUS WORDS by Charles Earle Funk. This is one of my favorite kinds of books--books of weird, obscure words, and about the origins of those words. This one is quite dated, though, having been published back in .... well, cripes, in 1958, the year I was born. I guess we're both a bit dated. LOL A lot of the words listed as common slang in this book have already fallen out of favor--some of them I had not really even heard used before. It was still interesting learning where various expressions and words came from though. I had read this in bits and pieces over the past couple of months as it was my 'bathroom book' and I quite enjoyed it, although as I say, it may not interest everyone and given the publication date is only mildly "useful" really. It's an old ex-library book that I'll be adding to my Keeper shelf of books about words. B.

18. SMALL FAVOR by Jim Butcher. (AUDIO) #10 Harry Dresden paranormal mystery set in Chicago. Harry, the only wizard in the phone book, hasn't been able to do much mundane business lately, as his job as a Warden of the White Council and other supernatural business has kept him busy. During a blizzard of epic proportions, Harry is called to the scene of a fire by cop Karrin Murphy who suspects something "otherworldly" about the crime. A major mob boss is apparently missing, but who's taken him and why? As things unfold, Harry begins to suspect that there are some major supernatural players orchestrating things behind the scenes--old "friends" of his from the Summer and Winter courts, and some new acquaintances straight out of Grimm's Grimmer Faerie Tales. Trying to figure out the motivations of everyone and stay one step ahead of them all isn't easy, but Harry and his friends dash madly through one crisis after another on (as usual!) little rest and meager rations, flying by the seats of their pants hoping to not only stay alive but end up by not owing too many favors, large or small. With a large cast of characters from many different magical factions, sometimes things were hard for me to keep straight, but that's really my only complaint. Definitely must read these in order, as things happening here are based on events in past books. Skillfully read by James Marsters, I have greatly enjoyed listening to this series in audio, although I enjoyed them in print before discovering the CDs from my library, too. The brief television series based on these books really did not do them justice--the books are far, far better. I would call this my very favorite paranormal series, a true blending of the paranormal and mystery genres. A

19. KILLER'S WEDGE by Ed McBain. #7 of the long-lived 87th precinct series set in fictional Isola (which reads like New York City.) Published in 1958, (back in the day when series authors cranked out several books a year) the book is a bit dated and kind of funny to read for that reason, but I'm determined to read through these early volumes that I hadn't read before--I got through most of the books from the late 1970's onward at the times they were released. These really serve for me to set up the past of the characters I got to know in those later books. In this episode, the wife of a man that Det. Steve Carella 'sent up the river' who later died in prison, takes the entire precinct house hostage with a gun and a bottle of volatile nitroglycerine in her purse while she waits for Carella to arrive so she can shoot and kill him. Carella, unaware of all that's going on at the station, is out in the field investigating a supposed suicide and contemplating becoming a father, as he's just found out his wife Teddy is expecting. Enjoyable, light read with an interesting glimpse into policework the way it used to be before technology changed things so irrevocably. B

Current Reads: HOOD by Stephen Lawhead, listening to MURDER IN CHINATOWN by Victoria Thompson in audio.