Sunday, May 9, 2010

May 2010

1. THE AMAZING MAURICE AND HIS EDUCATED RODENTS by Terry Pratchett. First in the Discworld Children's book series. Pratchett's take on the Pied Piper story. Every city has rats, especially in Discworld. But the city of Bad Blintz is special--they are so overrun with rats that they employ not one but two rat catchers and even at that are nearly starving because the rats are eating all the food. Enter Maurice--a talking tabby cat--and his thinking, talking rats with interesting names like Dangerous Beans, Peaches, Darktan and Nourishing. (They took their names from labels on tins and bottles in the trash, primarily.) With them is Keith, a rather nondescript lad who plays the pipe. Maurice's scam is to sneak his educated rodents into town, have them show themselves at inopportune moments, widdle on some foodstuffs, and then have Keith pipe them out of town. Voila--instant reward! They figure Bad Blintz is ripe for the picking with an already bad infestation. Problem is, Dangerous Beans and the others can find NO rats when they check out the town's sewers and dark places. Not a one! Turns out the rat catchers have a scheme of their own going, which Maurice, the rats, Keith and the Mayor's strange daughter Malicia set out to thwart. I really enjoyed this first Discworld book written more for young readers. The regular lot of characters aren't really mentioned, and the story could've taken place in any town, Discworld or otherwise. I would say this isn't for very young children as there is some violence and death...but then I guess, there is in pretty much every fairy tale, isn't there? Pratchett's usual wacky sense of humor is in evidence, albeit with less footnotes. It may be Discworld Lite, but it's not to be missed! B+

2. MOONLIGHT DOWNS by Adrian Hyland. Set in the outback of Australia, this is the first in a series featuring Emily Tempest, the 26-year-old daughter of a whitefeller miner and an Aboriginal woman. Emily returns to the outback after several years meandering around, trying various university courses, and still not sure what to do with her life. Since her mother died young, she spent much of her time growing up in Moonlight Downs, the blackfeller settlement in the outback, but she doesn't feel totally a part of either the white or the black community. Returning now, she almost feels like she's home, but the feeling is shattered when the elderly head of the settlement who was like a second father to her, is brutally murdered just a couple of days later. Emily is crushed as the community scatters, most back to the town of Bluebush, a scrubby settlement full of rough-living folks with no redeeming qualities. But there Emily ends up too, working in a menial job and living in a tiny, squalid apartment, as she has basically nowhere else to go. Lincoln's daughter Hazel, Emily's best friend, has gone off to do her grieving the aboriginal way. Emily puzzles over who could have killed Lincoln--was it Blakie, the wild, crazed witchdoctor who lived in the bush? Earl Marsh, a cattle baron set on buying up neighboring property? Or someone else? Emily feels like the police aren't too interested in finding the truth so begins poking her nose in and gets herself into some sticky situations along the way. All I can say is....WOW! What an awesome book! The author did such a great job with Emily's character, the cultural immersion, and the outback itself as a main character in the story. The racial tensions and societal norms were treated matter-of-factly and neither glossed over nor played up--they just WERE. I learned so much, and had no idea at the time that I was being educated--the book was a total pleasure read! I have to admit that I did spot the bad guy as soon as he was introduced, at least was pretty sure it was him, but that in no way diminished my enjoyment of the book. I am so glad I've got the second in the series on the way to me, as I know it won't be long before I get to it. If this isn't among my top ten of the year, I'll eat my shorts. :D A++

3. WHEN THE DEVIL HOLDS THE CANDLE by Karin Fossum. #3 Inspector Conrad Sejer series set in Norway. This book seems to be more about the lives of several people involved in various crimes than with the police procedures or crime detection. Andreas, an 18 year old, is reported missing by his frantic mother. Determined to convince the police that he is a 'good boy,' which seems to hold true on the surface--he had a steady job, never gave his mother trouble, had no police record--she refers them to her friend Irma as a character reference for Andreas. Unknown to his mother, Irma has been a victim of Andreas and his friend Zipp. We see a different story told from the point of view of Zipp, an indolent unemployed youth who is Andreas' best friend. He and Andreas would drive or wander around the town committing petty theft and burglary, looking for easy marks to steal a handbag from and get some beer money. It's also told from the point of view of Irma, an aging woman who seems virtually alone in the world and is definitely mentally ill in some way. I enjoy these series of mysteries, but they're always a little odd, skittering here and there from varying points of view such that it's sometimes hard to get a coherent picture of things. I also don't feel like I have a good grasp on who Sejer is, because there isn't all that much time spent on his police work or his personal life--bits and pieces here and there is all. It's an interesting book, and I will continue to read on in the series, but I came away from this one feeling somehow let down and dissatisfied--like I knew I was supposed to be more horrified than I was, or something. Hard to put a finger on it, but not as enjoyable to me as her previous books were. B.

4. MERCY FALLS by William Kent Krueger. (AUDIO) #5 Cork O'Connor mystery set in northern Minnesota (and partially in Chicago in this book.) Cork, sheriff of Tamarack County, has two investigations to divide his time between. First, a sniper shoots one of his deputies--and the bullet was most likely meant for him. Although Marcia Dodds will recover, Cork feels a certain amount of guilt and wants to find out the reason for the attempted hit and who's responsible. But he also has to investigate the brutal death of Eddie Jacoby, a man from Chicago who is in town on business. It turns out that Eddie is the half-brother of Ben Jacoby, an old flame of Jo's (Cork's wife) from college, part of a rich and powerful family who even fly in a 'security expert' to help. The threats against Cork continue, so he sends Jo and the kids to her sister Rose's in Chicago. Through a long and twisty tale, Cork, his team, Dina Willner (the security expert) chase clues and false trails in an attempt to find the bad guy. It has been several years since I read the previous book in this series. I've tried hard to like it because the author is local and I used to live in the area the books take place in. The books have interesting stories and I do love the local flavor. Cork and his secondary characters are likable and interesting. And yet some niggling thing about these books always annoys the heck out of me. I still can't figure out what exactly bugs me, but it wasn't any different this time--even listening to the book in audio instead of reading in print didn't change things. Part of it is the relationship between Cork and Jo, his wife. Something is just "off" there. Also, the plots seem kind of contrived. In this book--as with previous books in the series--the bad guy was very obvious to me from the time they entered the picture. A whole slew of red herrings didn't change my mind about that and I kept wanting to slap Cork upside the head for missing big clues. The plot seemed really stretched with way too many coincidences popping up. And I absolutely HATE it when an author doesn't wrap up the story in the book at hand. Yes, there has to be some continuity from one book to the next, perhaps leaving questions about what happens to some aspect of the main character's personal life--but to totally omit a resolution to the crimes committed during the book, even if the 'answer' was known to a couple of people is just deplorable, IMO. Here's the deal: this cliffhanger, more than wanting me to go out and read the next book, makes me realize that I don't really care one way or another what happens. And whatever the mysterious "it" is that bugs me about this series, I'm going to listen to it and just stop right here. C-

5. THE SAMARITAN'S SECRET by Matt Beynon Rees. #3 Omar Yussef Sirhan mystery set in Palestine, this one in the city of Nablus where Omar and his family have come for his friend Sami's wedding. Before that happens though, Sami, a police officer, gets tangled up in an investigation regarding a murdered Samaritan--a small religious sect related to Judaism with a temple on Mt. Gerishim above the city. When Sami is warned off the investigation by one of the powerful political sects, Omar takes up the slack and investigates with his friend Khamis Zeydan, Bethlehem's police chief (also in town for the wedding) and discover that Khamis has a personal tie to the investigation. Was the young man's death related to the recent theft of an ancient, sacred scroll or was it motivated by something personal or political. In Palenstine, it seems that politics figure heavily in every investigation and the police are often in the pay of various political sects who then direct how the investigation should go. Omar Yussef is outraged by this and wants to get at the truth--which often (and in this case also) leads to him putting himself in harm's way. Eventually they do get to the heart of the matter, with an interesting plot twist that I should have seen coming (one of those head-slapping moments, because the clues were there!) but didn't. Another stellar entry in this series, the author puts you right in the heart of the city of Nablus and without letting on that he's doing so, gives you an interesting education into the city's history, the mingling of various religions and political parties, and the current state of affairs. I always walk away from these books feeling saddened at the way things are in the Middle East, how people must be torn in many directions in their daily lives, to live with things hanging over their heads that we in the Western world can only begin to imagine. I like Omar Yussef a lot--he's an engaging, believable character with a striped past and his own flaws but with an inherent integrity that nevertheless leaves him open to temptation at times. Very much looking forward to the next in this wonderful series. A.

6. A BEAUTIFUL BLUE DEATH by Charles Finch. #1 Charles Lenox historical mystery set in 1865 London. Charles, a member of the nobility, has decided to spend his spare time being a private detective, although he accepts no money for his services. His good friend Lady Jane Grey has approached him to look into the death of a former lady's maid of hers, Prudence Smith, who was said to have committed suicide but was later found to have been murdered by a rare botanical poison. Charles has help from Lady Jane, his doctor friend Tom McConnell, his butler Graham and even his brother, Lord Edmund the baronet and eventually the mysteries--another body turns up later, one of Charles' prime suspects--do get solved. I wasn't sure I'd like this book as it's set in a time period that's one of my least favorite, and I've never been fond of books featuring a lot of the high nobility muckety-mucking about. But this one was quite pleasant, with lots of warm, blazing fires and pots of tea and toast--probably all the more pleasant because I read it primarily over a cool and rainy weekend. LOL The cast of characters were fairly lively and atypical for the nobility of the time, although some of the quirkiness was a bit cliched. I spotted a number of historical errors and anachronisms, but they didn't significantly interfere with the mystery, I didn't think. I did catch some of the clues as they came up but didn't realize their significance until the end when Charles pieced them altogether. A fairly light, quick read and while I wouldn't call it excellent it was a good, enjoyable book despite the historical inaccuracies. B

7. THE STOLEN BLUE by Judith Van Gieson. #1 Claire Reynier mystery. Claire is the collections librarian for a university in New Mexico, fairly recently divorced and loving her newfound freedom. She heads into the Blue, an isolated area a couple of hundred miles from Santa Fe to see an old mentor of hers who is in ill health and is donating his private collection to her university's library. While she is there to collect the books, Burke tells her he's made her the executor of his will, which he's just changed and has witnessed in front of her, talks about what he wants done--and the next morning he ends up dead. His newly discovered daughter Mariah says she followed his wishes and helped him commit suicide the way he wanted. No one thinks much of it, Claire included, because it sounds exactly as though it's how he would have wanted to go. But then his other children raise a stink because his isolated ranch is worth a lot of money. When a single carton of the rarest of Burke's donated books is stolen from Claire's truck before it can even be catalogued into the library, she seeks to find out who stole them and why--and then more questions are raised about Burke's death when the heirs are set to contest the will. Did he die of his own hand, or did someone else help him along in a way he did NOT want? This was an okay book, but I wasn't enthralled. While I thought some of Claire's antics were interesting, the author wrote about her almost dispassionately and I found it hard to feel much of anything about her, her situations, etc. It was just sort of blah. I did finish it, but I'm really not eager to get on with the series, at least not at this time. I just didn't much care one way or another who did what to whom. C.

8. THE HANGING HILL by Chris Grabenstein. #2 in the YA paranormal mystery series featuring Zack Jennings and his family. Eleven-year-old Zack and his stepmother Judy are off to Chatham, CT where Judy's book Curiosity Cat is being produced as a play by the rather famous director Reginald Grimes at the Hanging Hill Theatre. Theatres are notoriously full of ghosts as Zack and Judy, who can also see ghosts, find out quickly, much to their dismay. Some ghosts are benevolent, others seem neutral and still others downright evil. Zack is excited to learn that one of his favorite actresses, Meghan McKenna, will be playing the girl's role in the play and when they meet they get along famously--and Zack learns that Meghan can also see ghosts. Her co-star, Derek Stone, can't--and he's also got an annoying Hollywood mom and is allergic to Zack's beloved dog, Zipper. Strange things begin happening almost from the moment of their arrival and soon Zack and Meghan are off exploring and uncover a deadly plot headed by none other than the strange Grimes himself and which many of the theatre's ghosts are involved in, too. This was a wonderful book, plenty of scary moments and lots of great fun throughout, whether you're eleven years old or eleven plus forty! Highly recommended, and though it stands well on its own, I think it's best enjoyed if you read The Crossroads, the first book featuring Zack and Judy, first. A.

9. THREE MONKEYS by Marianne MacDonald. #7 in the Dido Hoare, antiquarian bookseller mystery series. When an old homeless man Dido has seen around discovers parts of a dismembered body in the trash near Dido's home and bookstore, she becomes involved in yet another strange mystery. The old man had a monkey which Dido eventually captures and which ends up staying with a friend of her father's. As per usual, there are many things Dido somehow "forgets" to report to the police (I'm beginning to call this 'amateur sleuth syndrome' so prevalent is it among these types of books! LOL) and keeps poking into things herself with the help of her sort-of boyfriend, Chris Kennedy, an investigative reporter. She's puzzled by a quite rare and valuable book the man once had shown Dido which isn't in his belongings when he's in hospital after being hit by a car. Of course before solving the crimes, Dido eventually ends up in danger herself, through a series of what I can only call bad choices. Maybe it was just my mood, but there seemed to be a lot of "filler" in this book with the making and drinking of endless cups of tea and coffee, picking Ben (Dido's four-year-old son) up from or taking him to nursery, etc. I like Dido and I LOVE Barnabas, but I would have liked more interesting tidbits about books and the bookselling business as filler instead of the other things. In the earlier books, I got a real sense of Dido's love for her shop and for what she does, but that's been missing for these past couple of books which takes a bit of the sparkle out of them. B-

10. TURN COAT by Jim Butcher. #11 in the Dresden Files paranormal mystery series in which wizard Harry Dresden is sought by Donald Morgan, one of the elite of the Wizard's White Council--and certainly no friend to Harry in the past--to protect him. He shows up on Harry's doorstep seriously wounded and bloodied with the story that the White Council is after him as he is believed to have killed another wizard, which he swears he didn't do, and he figures that seeking solace from Harry would be the last place the Council would expect him to go. Harry believes Morgan and sets out to solve the crime, as he also believes this ties in to his certainty that there is a "Black" Council with someone very high up on the inside feeding information to the Council's enemies. With fingers in multiple pies--protecting Morgan, gleaning information about the murder, and also trying to locate his brother Thomas who's been kidnapped by a skinwalker (whom Harry calls Shagnasty--ha ha ha!)--it's not easy for Wizard Dresden to get done what needs doing and as usual it means sacrificing sleep and pissing a few people off along the way. Another wild tale across Chicago, through the Never-Never, to Edinburgh (where the White Council's headquarters are currently located) and with unexpected alliances, strange creatures, and an impossibly entangled set of twisty circumstances that leaves you wondering what's going to happen right up til the end. Very skillfully narrated by James Marsters, who seems to capture instinctively the heart, soul and the essence of Harry, and who does quite a wide variety of accents and voices very well. I started out reading this series in print, but after listening to the last few in audio, I doubt I would go back now. Very enjoyable! A.

11. IN THE WOODS by Tana French. First in a series featuring characters from Dublin, Ireland police team. (Not truly a series--the second book features only one of the detectives this book does and the third, I understand, features someone totally different. I may be wrong about that, just going by book blurbs.) ANYway....Detective Rob Ryan and his partner Cassie Maddox of the Dublin Murder Squad are called out to the small town of Knocknaree to investigate the murder of a 12-year-old girl, found bludgeoned to death and then positioned on an altar stone at an archaeological dig nearby. This is a blow to the gut for Ryan, who lived in Knocknaree as a child and was part of a huge investigation twenty years previously when HE was twelve and his two best friends disappeared in "The Wood" near the village and were never seen again. Rob (who used to be called Adam and now goes by his middle name) was found in the wood with his shoes soaked with blood, clinging to a tree, and totally without memory of what happened. He can't even remember much of anything from before that time. His family moved away, he went to boarding school in England and acquired a bit of a posh accent, and he just blocked that part of his life out--until now. He doesn't tell his boss about his connection to the place, although Cassie knows, and this leads him down some dark paths later in the book. The murder is complicated in that it could be related to many things--the child's father was head of a local group set to preserve the archaelogical dig, which is set to close down and be bulldozed to make room for a motorway. Or could it be a serial pedophile? Or perhaps Katy just saw something she wasn't intended to. Is there a connection between Katy's death and the disappearance of Peter and Jamie, Rob's friends from years ago? There are many different veins to explore before the tale is told, although I did figure it out fairly well in advance. This book sucked me in right from the beginning with the story Rob tells about that summer day when he was twelve. It's a perfect blend of personal story and police investigation, richly written with a compelling style. It was a meaty book that took me a full week to read and digest--but definitely not a slog! If there was a downfall, it was the ending which was a bit anti-climactic. But I am eagerly looking forward to the next one which apparently features only Cassie Maddox in it. A

12. SHROUD FOR A NIGHTINGALE by P.D. James. #4 Adam Dalgliesh British mystery, in which the Scotland Yard detective and his team are off to a nursing school to investigate the untimely death of two nursing students--both dead by poison of different types a couple of weeks apart. One was administered during a demonstration of gastric feeding during an inspection by the General Nursing Council, when Nurse Pearce, playing the role of the patient has her stomach dissolved by a caustic substance added to the milk feed. The second death of Nurse Fallon was at first thought to be suicide as the poison was in her bedtime whisky and lemon. Dalgliesh and crew are called in after the second death and put in many long hours cataloguing who was where during each of the deaths and trying to come up with some background and possible connection between the two nurses, since the idea that the two deaths are unrelated seems almost impossible. Neither of the women were particularly well-liked, but murder? An interesting study on life in an English nursing school in the early70's--very different than my own American nursing education that started about ten years later. P.D. James is the master at weaving an intricate plot, dropping plenty of clues (and red herrings!) and then springing the result on you at the last moment. Very enjoyable classic mystery--I'm sure I read this one years ago, but didn't remember whodunit and look forward to moving ahead in the series. A

13. THE END OF MARKING TIME by C.J. West. Standalone thriller that I would classify as dystopian fiction, set in the near future in a time when all prisoners have been released from their physical prisons and forced to undergo "Re-learning" through a variety of programs. The story is told from the point of view of Michael O'Connor, a twenty-five year old professional burglar who was injured in a police chase and spent several years in a coma, waking up to find a very different place than when he went to sleep. Gone are the jury trials, plea bargaining and time off for good behavior. Instead, you're electronically monitored 24/7 and given lessons and tasks to complete and learn before you can move on--and the punishments for not completing them or for re-offending are...shall we say, severe. Michael, after strengthening his muscles so he can learn to walk and move again, is set up in his own apartment--which he thinks isn't going to be so bad. He's beaten the system before, after all. But the system has gotten a whole lot sneakier while he's been asleep, and the rules have changed. As he careens from one mistake to the next, he's not sure who his friends are (if he has any) nor is he even certain what the objective is that he's supposed to be aiming for. I'm a bit of a fan of dystopian fiction, so the idea of this book really appealed to me. The storyline is very creative and the world Michael now lives in just as uniquely horrific as many other books of this type, where there has been plagues, wars or social upheaval. However, the book had one major problem (at least, it was a problem to me!) which distracted me quite a lot from the story itself. Writing a book in first person singular is not an easy thing to do effectively. The key is to tell the story in an interesting way from the point of view of the main character without over-populating the prose with the word "I" in all its various forms. Unfortunately, this book was written in just that style, with the opening paragraph containing "I" thirteen times. While the story itself was interesting, I could only read a few short chapters at a time without having to put the book aside to read something else for awhile--which is just a personal thing, since the "I" overuse is something that drives me particularly crazy. I'm afraid I wanted to hit that red button rather early on, as the "I" thing makes the protagonist seem very self-centered and much less engaging than he could have been, and I would have graded it higher if not for that one thing. B-

14. BIG RED TEQUILA by Rick Riordan (audio) #1 Jackson "Tres" Navarre mystery set in San Antonio, TX. Tres has just arrived back home from San Francisco, having been gone for more than ten years. His old girlfriend Lillian has asked him to come back, and he does so with hopes of starting things off where they were before. In addition, he begins looking into the murder of his father, who had been Sheriff at the time and who had been gunned down in front of his house with Tres looking on. There are a lot of people who really wish Tres would have just stayed gone and would prefer to let sleeping dogs lie, but that's not going to happen. When Lillian disappears a few days later, the list of possible reasons begins to multiply the more Tres looks into things. Tres is a bit of an atypical Texas 'cowboy'--he has an English degree and is a Tai Chi master, and though there were things he loved about San Francisco--including a feisty Chinese lawyer named May Lee who actually comes to San Antonio to help him--he realizes that this really is his home. The book's name comes from Tres's favored beverage--tequila mixed with Big Red cream soda--which he becomes reacquainted with before too long. I enjoyed this quite a lot, which sort of surprised me, as generally I'm not crazy about books set in the South or full of rednecks. There were a lot of great characters in this book, and I do hope at least some of them are recurring folks in the series.The reader did an excellent job with the book, the different voices and the 'tone' of the book was just right, too. I hadn't figured out the bad guy for sure--there were lots of red herrings being tossed around--til right up to the end, which was a nice surprise, and I will definitely read on (or listen on, if I can!) to see what Tres gets up to next. A.

15. THE MAP OF TRUE PLACES by Brunonia Barry. Novel set in Salem, MA about Zee Finch, a woman in her 30's who comes to her hometown from Boston, where she'd been working as a psychologist. Her father has Parkinson's disease and at his request, his longtime boyfriend Melville had kept from her how seriously ill Finch was. But now Finch has kicked Melville out of the house over some old slight and Zee is left to try to figure out how to care for him. She also is mourning a patient of hers, a bi-polar woman named Lilly who committed suicide and reminds Zee so much of her own mother that lines become blurred. Zee's engagement crumbles as she stays away from Boston longer and realizes that she really didn't want to marry Michael anyway. I really enjoyed this story, although I did see the plot twist coming from a mile away. I like the author's writing style, blending a bit of the mystical with the practical and capturing the essence of Salem, lots of literary and historical references too. Some of the characters from her previous book, The Lace Reader are briefly mentioned also and I hope she writes more stories set here. Her characters, even the minor ones, are wonderfully drawn--I could clearly see them in my mind's eye and felt I knew them very well by the end of the book. In short, a great escape of a novel that leaves you with a little something to think about while you're enjoying the ride. A.

16. MAGICAL AROMATHERAPY by Scott Cunningham. A slim little reference book that takes traditional aromatherapy one step further and describes how to apply the power of scent magickally by empowering the energy within the plants (or parts of the plants being used) that provide the scent as well as the scents themselves. It's a handy reference with type of plant, parts used, magickal association, and techniques for use as well as the appropriate cautions and warnings. The appendices with where to get supplies and such are mostly outdated now, but all in all, a handy tool for a quick reference, though given a choice between the two, I think I prefer his Complete Book of Incense, Oils and Brews. B.

18. MURDER FOR CHRIST'S MASS by Maureen Ash. #4 Bascot de Marins "Templar Knight" mystery set in Lincoln, UK in 1201. Bascot, a Templar Knight recovering from several years of capture in the Middle East by serving as a household knight to Nicolaa de la Haye, castellan for the city of Lincoln, investigates a murder for her husband, Gerard Camville who is the Sheriff. A young apprentice who works at the mint is found stabbed in the heart on Christmas morning, although he has been dead a few days already. Bascot's observant young assistant Gianni spots a coin in the vicinity, and it turns out to be an old coin minted during the reign of King Stephen decades ago. Bascot and Camville both fear this means there is a treasure trove nearby and seek to find it lest King John accuse Camville of treachery and withholding monies from the crown--while Nicolaa de la Haye holds the king's favor, the Sheriff has been less than supportive in times past. One death leads to another as Bascot, Gianni and Camville strive to locate not only the murderer from among a whole smorgasbord of suspects, but to find the treasure trove before Twelfth Night, which signals the end of the Christmas holidays and the return of the county's coroner--who would be sure to put in a bad word for Gerard Camville with the King any time he can. I really enjoy this series as the author does a wonderful job of showing 'what things were like' back in that time period without making you realize she's taught you something. While some of the minor characters are a bit two-dimensional, and the dialogue sometimes seems a little flat, the sense of time and mood is truly outstanding. It will be interesting to see in the next book if Bascot truly does rejoin the Templar order and leaves Gianni training as a clerk in Lincoln, or if circumstances have him staying around. B+.

DNF: PLAGUE YEAR by Jeff Carlson--audio version. It started off very promising but after awhile the author wandered off on tangents into the past with numerous details of the main players' lives that distracted from the story. I gave up listening after about 2 hours of narration.

Currently Reading: THE WORLD IS FLAT: A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY by Thomas L. Friedman, which is quite the door-stopper and non-fiction to boot, so I'm sure I'll be at it for quite awhile. Listening to IN A STRANGE CITY by Laura Lippman, one of the Tess Monaghan series. I'm not reading anything else in print at the moment as I'm having a bit of a "weed out weekend" and trying to find a few books I can throw back...running out of shelf space yet again. *sigh*