Sunday, July 10, 2011

JULY 2011 Reading List

1. THE INDIAN BRIDE (APA: CALLING OUT FOR YOU) by Karin Fossum. (AUDIO) #4 Inspector Conrad Sejer mystery in Norway. An Indian woman is found beaten savagely to death near a remote Norwegian village, her face all but unrecognizable. Turns out to be the new bride of one of the villagers who had just returned from Mumbai. He had been unable to collect his wife from the airport because just as he was to leave, he got a call that his sister was very badly injured in a car crash and he had to go to hospital--the cab he'd sent to pick Poona up couldn't locate her, either. Who would do such a thing to a stranger, and why? I didn't like the reader for this book very much, but to be honest, the story itself was rather "meh" as well. Supposed to be a 'thriller' but I found nothing really thrilling about it. I ended up being very annoyed with the detail spent on unimportant things and the lack of actual police work. I wanted to smack Inspector Sejer upside the head, and was totally peeved at the ending, so I have decided this will be the last of this series for me. C-

2. FLESH HOUSE by Stuart MacBride. #4 DS Logan McRae series set in Aberdeen, Scotland. Logan and his co-workers are on the trail of The Flesher, a serial killer who butchers his victims like cattle and dines on his work. He first surfaced nearly twenty years previously, when Logan's boss DI Insch was on the case and failed to successfully prosecute Ken Wiseman, the man everyone knew was guilty. So when human remains turn up at Wiseman's cousin's butcher shop, and several bloody murders ensue, the hounds are once again after Wiseman to exclusion of all others. But is he--was he, even then--the real killer? Gory and full of violence, blood and plenty of macabre humor, I very much enjoyed the book as I have the previous in series. The one problem I have with the series continues to be typos ('out' instead of 'our') misspellings ('wierd' rather than 'weird') and use of wrong word forms ('chord' instead of 'cord') and the like. The body count by the end of the book also (as always) seems excessive and almost ludicrous. But I still really liked the darn thing. Go figure! A

3. THE SEPTEMBER SOCIETY by Charles Finch. #2 Charles Lenox historical mystery set in London in the 1860's. Charles, a peer of the realm as well as (to his family's dismay) a private investigator, is hired by a woman whose son has disappeared from Lincoln College at Oxford. Assured by everyone who knew George Payson that disappearing without notice is definitely out of character, Charles discovers clues that may lead back to the death of George's father in India some twenty years previously. Not my favorite time period, but I do enjoy this cozy historical series which has a good balance of personal character development, historical setting and a rollicking good mystery--which I didn't figure out til the end. Very enjoyable! A

4. MADHOUSE by Rob Thurman. #3 Cal and Niko Leandros paranormal mystery series. Another fast-moving, action-packed read as Cal, Niko and their friends dash around New York battling another otherworldly beast who likes to dine on human flesh. Cal, half-human and half-Auphe (demon) and his all-human warrior brother Niko are on the trail of Sawney Beane with Niko's vampire girlfriend Promise, the puck Robin Goodfellow and a host of others. Dark and at times depressing, quite gory and explicitly violent, the action is also accompanied by plenty of snappy, witty and risque dialogue. This series is what I would call an R-rated Harry Dresden clone, which is probably why I enjoy it so much. Oh, there are differences of course but the tone is much the same--and like the Dresden series (and UNlike so many other paranormals) it's not just a sleazy, poorly-disguised romance. A

5. BLOOD HINA by Naomi Hirahara. #4 Mas Arai mystery, featuring the seventy-something Japanese-American gardener in LA. Mas investigates the theft of some Hina dolls that belonged to his best friend's fiance Spoon--and their disappearance caused the bride-to-be to cancel the wedding on the big day itself. Then Haruo himself disappears and Mas is fraught with worry as he uses his harmless old man persona to overhear some interesting information that may lead back to the death of Spoon's first husband some twenty years previously and would mean his friend's life is in jeopardy. Another excellent entry in this series and I'm really, really hoping there will be more forthcoming. I've grown very fond of Mas and want to hear about the next chapter in his story. A+

6. ROBBER'S WINE by Ellen Hart. #7 Jane Lawless mystery in which Jane and her friend Cordelia are heading north on vacation and agree to a slight detour to give a friend whose car is in the shop a ride to her mother's lake home near Grand Rapids to attend an 'important family meeting.' They arrive to find Belle (the mother) missing and the entire household in an uproar, as simply disappearing without notice is very unlike her. Of course she does turn up dead, and Jane and Cordelia forego the pleasure of a trip to the north shore of Lake Superior to stick around for the family and be nosy, which isn't a real comfortable thing since most of the suspects are family. I enjoyed this book quite a lot, although I'm not really that crazy about the popping between points of view often of some rather extraneous characters...sometimes it feels like Jane fades into the background too much. But still a good entry in the series and I look forward to the next. B+

7. DEXTER IS DELICIOUS by Jeff Lindsay. (AUDIO) #5 Dexter mystery, in which the blood-spatter expert and secret serial killer also becomes Dex-Daddy, as his wife Rita gives birth to their daughter Lily Anne. Dex-Daddy is caught off guard by the strong actual human feelings he has for his new offspring and decides that he needs to reform his ways, pushing his 'Dark Passenger' down deep, not listening to its insistent stirrings. Meanwhile, Dexter and his sister, Sergeant Deborah, are on the trail of a coven of cannibals, which would normally be right up Dexter's alley--but leaves him feeling distinctly uncomfortable now that he's trying to lay off the killing, righteous or not. Enjoyable listen--narrated by the author himself, which often doesn't work at all, but in this case is very well done, and the author even sounds somewhat like the guy who plays Dexter on the TV series. The ending was a bit predictable, but I surely did enjoy the getting there, with plenty of dark humor as well as the usual blood and gore and the interesting commentary on normal human behavior from a psychopath. A

8. A MONSTROUS REGIMENT OF WOMEN by Laurie R. King. #2 Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes mystery set in the early 1920's in London and Oxford. Mary becomes involved with an odd spiritualist who also is a suffragette championing the cause of women. When she learns of several deaths associated with the inner circle of Margery Childe's Temple, she investigates and her friend Sherlock Holmes assists peripherally, until Mary herself ends up in grave danger, and then Holmes' role intensifies. I wasn't sure I was going to continue reading this series after the first one, which I liked but found a bit cumbersome. This second entry, by contrast, was nearly impossible to put down. A

9. A NIGHT OF LONG KNIVES by Rebecca Cantrell. #2 Hannah Vogel historical mystery set in 1930's Germany. Hannah and her son by default, Anton, are on a zeppelin from South America (where they have been hiding for 3 years) to Switzerland, covering a news story, when it is diverted to Germany. Ernst Rohm has found her and captures Hannah and Anton--who is supposedly his natural son--intending to force her to marry him to quash rumors of his (forbidden) homosexuality. Before that can happen, Rohm is snatched and executed by Hitler, and someone has kidnapped Anton. Hannah will not leave Germany until she gets him back and this leads her on a dangerous journey that puts her life in mortal danger many times as she struggles to figure out who she can trust. Excellent second entry in this series with immersion into the culture of Germany as the Nazi party is just coming into control of the country. Hannah is an interesting, well-fleshed character and I look forward to the next entry to see what she gets up to. Highly recommended! A+

10. WHERE DEATH DELIGHTS by Bernard Knight. First of a series set in 1950's England that features Dr. Richard Pryor, a forensic pathologist just setting up his independent business after being given his notice at his former job in Singapore. He moves into a large house on the Welsh-English border that he inherited from his aunt and with business partner Dr. Angela Bray, who handles the lab side of things, sets out to make his mark. Working by word of mouth and referrals from colleagues, Dr. Pryor soon finds himself busier than a one-armed paperhanger with several cases. While this book is somewhat bland, I did enjoy it and was amazed how quickly I finished. It's an interesting historical perspective, both with forensic detail when that field was just beginning to bloom, and from the setting of England in 1955 just beginning the post-war boom. The characters were rather two-dimensional and somewhat stereotypical, but I enjoyed the book overall and will continue reading the series. B

11. TURNSTONE by Graham Hurley. #1 DI Joe Faraday series set in Portsmouth, UK. This book introduces Faraday, a long-time widower about to become an empty-nester as his 22-year-old son JJ, who is deaf, finds love in France. Joe tends to be one of those cops who follows his gut instincts rather than 'just the facts, ma'am' and this often gets him in trouble with his superiors. A kind, sensitive soul who is an avid birdwatcher, Faraday chases vague clues about a man who is missing, reported so by his eight-year-old daughter, and believes him dead, but he's having a hard time convincing his boss to put serious effort into the investigation, which centers around the Fastnet yacht races. Meanwhile, there's also an ongoing drugs investigation, the owner of a high-end mall complex screaming bloody murder about vandalism done to luxury autos in their parking garage. Faraday himself is a well-fleshed, likable character, but the rest of his team were, to me, kind of cliched and not terribly interesting. I liked the author's writing style and the real sense of place with the beaches and shores around Portsmouth and environs, although the mystery wasn't terribly hard to figure out. A very enjoyable first entry in series. A-

12. THE GIRL OF HIS DREAMS by Donna Leon. (AUDIO) #17 Commissario Guido Brunetti mystery set in Venice. Brunetti investigates the drowning death of a young Rom (gypsy) girl, who apparently died during a home robbery. The question: did she fall or was she pushed into the canal? He also looks into the affairs of the leader of an odd cult, asked by a childhood friend of his brother's, now a priest. Is the man a charlatan, luring money away from gullible followers, or is he genuinely concerned with the welfare of his group? Guido also adjusts to life without his aged, demented mother who has passed away. Enjoyable, atmospheric visit to Venice, as always, but I have to say that I grow a bit weary of this same plot--the 'bad guys' being powerful people--or at least people with powerful friends--whom Guido and his fellow officers are not even allowed to question or investigate too closely and who will likely never see 'justice' in the sense of legal prosecution. This was the first time I have listened to an audio book of this series, and the narration was well done--I think it's just that these stories are getting a bit tired. B+

13. THE THREE KINGS OF COLOGNE by Kate Sedley. #16 Roger the Chapman historical mystery set in the late 1400's England. A body discovered on a patch of land that had belonged to a nunnery, now being developed by the mayor-elect of Bristol as an almshouse and sanctuary proves to be a missing young woman who disappeared twenty years previously. The mayor pays Roger to investigate and hopes to find the girl's killer so he feels right about having the ground reconsecrated. This is the first time Roger has set his chapman's bag aside and accepted money for his investigations, and he's uneasy about doing so. As usual, he noses around, is attacked and warned off a few times before coming to the truth. Enjoyable as always. A

14. WHITE NIGHTS by Ann Cleeves. #2 of the Shetland Island quartet featuring Inspector Jimmy Perez. At an art showing that features well-known Island matriarch Bella Sinclair as well as her nephew, famous fiddler Roddy Sinclair, and also the artwork of Perez's new girlfriend Fran Hunter, a stranger in black stops in front of a painting and begins sobbing hysterically, claiming he can't remember who he is and why he is there, or why he is so moved by the painting. He disappears into the night, but the next morning he's found hanging in a fishing shack not far from the gallery, but it's easily ascertained that he was murdered. The first step is to figure out who the guy is and also to isolate who had possible opportunity to do the deed. After the initial oddness of the story sucked me in, there were parts of the book that seemed rather washed out, as though they were filler in the book, and wandered a bit off track sometimes and lost focus. I was also not real keen on Perez's constant relationship angst and self-doubt, which gets old after a bit. I had the killer pegged from the get-go and had a good guess as to the reason once a few clues fell in place. Despite these flaws, the wonderful atmosphere of the Shetland Islands painted with the author's words made it a definite worthwhile read and I do intend to finish this series. B

15. FLIPPING OUT by Marshall Karp. #3 Lomax and Biggs mystery in which the two detectives investigate the murder of several of their co-workers' wives. Eventually the potential pool of victims is narrowed to a few people involved with a 'house flipping' business where a home is purchased, made famous by one of the members--a mystery writer--and then renovated and sold at huge profit. Problem is, there doesn't seem to be a motive as the business is hugely successful and anyone associated with it is making money. Our savvy detectives eventually get there, though, flying under their boss's radar. A quick, fun read although I had figured out the bad guy way in advance, I didn't know exactly what the motive was until close to the end. I like the two detectives a lot and enjoy the sassy writing style. Looking forward to the next. A

16. CATALOGUE OF DEATH by Jo Dereske. #10 Miss Zukas mystery in which a snowstorm hits the usually temperate Bellehaven and during the storm, an explosion kills an elderly man who was the library's benefactor, he having donated the land for the new library. Or did he? Miss Zukas finds out through her investigation that there was no written agreement and now his family are squabbling over the land which his brothers had wanted developed for condominiums. Enjoyable visit to Bellehaven with Helma, Ruth and the rest of the gang. A

17. THE BOWL OF NIGHT by Rosemary Edghill. #3 and final Bast mystery set in mid 1990's New York. Karen Hightower, a Wiccan who thinks of herself as Bast, is headed out of the city for HallowFest, a Pagan festival set on a campground a couple hours' drive north of New York. Shortly after arriving, she discovers the murdered body of a preacher whom no one liked, with his vociferous rantings about the evils of paganism. When Bast looks closely at the body, he appears to have been ritually murdered, although she cannot imagine anyone she knows doing such a thing. Before long, she's working with one of the deputies as a sort of liaison between the police and the Pagans, many of whom are less than cooperative with law enforcement, given previous bad experiences they've had. Enjoyable ending to the series; I do like this character and wish the author had been able to continue on. B

18. IN THE SHADOW OF GOTHAM by Stefanie Pintoff. #1 Simon Ziele historical mystery set in 1905 New York and also Dobson, a smaller town north of the city. The brutal murder of a young woman in Dobson leads Ziele back to the city, dealing with academics from Columbia University, criminologists who are studying the minds of criminals--and who suspect they know who committed this horrible crime. Of course, it's very rarely the first person suspected who is the actual killer, and this was a cat and mouse tale until the very end with plenty of action as well as character development so that by the end of the book I felt I had a pretty good idea of who Simon Ziele was--and he's someone I definitely want to read more about. Excellent first entry--hard to believe it was a first novel!--and glad to have the next here waiting for me. A

19. HANGING CURVE by Troy Soos. (AUDIO) Final entry in the Mickey Rawlings historical baseball series. The books' settings are each spaced out by a few years, and this one takes place in 1922 St. Louis as Mickey, still a utility infielder, plays for the St. Louis Browns. Each of his books also deals with social issues of the day, and this one deals with the Negro baseball leagues, Jim Crow laws, the Ku Klux Klan and lynchings, and it was a very painful book to listen to. It was excellent--just made me mad as hell. I am sad, too, that there are no more books in this series. I've thoroughly enjoyed knowing Mickey and Margie, his friends and (the author's real strength) the historical settings and social issues happening in the different cities Mickey's played in. I've listened to all these in the audio format, read by Johnny Heller, who does an excellent job with the 'tone' of the books and has become Mickey's voice to me. Farewell, Mickey, and thanks for the entertainment! A.

Currently reading:

MATTY GROVES by Deborah Grabien