Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Water Like A Stone by Deborah Crombie

Detectives Duncan Kincaid of Scotland Yard and Gemma James of the Notting Hill Metropolitan Police are back in this eleventh outstanding entry in the series. Duncan and his live-in lover Gemma, and their respective sons take Christmas holiday with Duncan's family in Cheshire. It's a pretty little village with canals, cottage, and tragedy. On the eve of their arrival, Duncan's sister Juliet, who is a builder, finds a mummified body of an infant interred in the wall of the old diary barn that she is renovating. The story revolves around retired social worker, Annie Lebow, who after being burned out on one too many child service cases left her marriage to become one of the boat people that roam the waterways of England. Annie's past life as a social worker intersects with her new life with a dose of bad karma for Annie. In a parallel storyline, Duncan's sister's marriage is not only falling apart, but she has to deal with her trouble teenage daughter, and her husband's crooked business partner. Duncan and Gemma take a bit of a back seat investigating the crime, but they are very much in the forefront on domestic issues in the story. This book has continued to flesh out their characters beyond their professional lives. Duncan's son Kit was very much a main character, as is his niece Lally. We got to see more of a father/son dynamic between Duncan and Kit. The book was richly atmospheric set in the bleak midwinter which suited the boat people/canal storyline. There were also flashback scenes narrated by the psychotic personality. I figured out who was narrating those scenes almost right away, but it didn't detract from the story in the least. I really did have trouble putting this book down which is always the sign of a good book. It might be helpful if some of the previous books have been read since each book builds upon the other in bringing the characters forward, but it is not absolutely necessary. This book stands as a fine stand-alone novel. Highly Recommended.

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Friday, March 16, 2007

Storm Runners by T. Jefferson Parker

After a couple of years of hitting the booze after his wife and son were blown up by a bomb meant for him, ex-police officer Matt Stromsoe is recruited for a security job by an old colleague. He is assigned is to protect local FOX weather reporter, Frankie Hatfield from stalker. Before long Matt finds out there is more the stalking than meets the eye. Frankie is more than a weathergirl. She is scientist intent on carrying out her great-great-grandfather's lifework of making rain. Those at the LA Dept of Water and Power don't exactly want her to succeed.

There is also an intertwined plot involving Mike Tavarez who was Matt's best friend in childhood, and also the man responsible for the bomb which killed Matt's family. Mike who is now in prison is part of the Mexican Mafia, and is still very active in running the Mafia using code via letters and the Internet.

For me the story with Matt worked better than story involving Mike and the Mexican Mafia just because I've never been a fan of anything involving prison as a subject matter. It almost seemed like two stories in one because the scenes with Mike in prison and his backstory were extensive. I really did enjoy Matt as a character. I've always been a sucker for a damaged hero, and Frankie was an interesting female lead. They had good chemistry as a team. The plot was a bit strange with the rainmaking element, but the novel was nice paced, and the two intertwining stories seemed to flip back and forth without a jarring effect.

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Sunday, March 04, 2007

High Profile by Robert B. Parker

A controversial talk show host with more than one skeleton in his closet is found hanging from a tree in Paradise, Massachusetts. A few days later his assistant is found dead. Jesse Stone, a former LA robbery and homicide detective and current Paradise Chief of Police is called in to investigate. There is a concurrent subplot that involves Jesse's ex-wife, a stalker, and Jesse's current squeeze Sunny Randall.

Jesse Stone is my favorite Parker character. He's more flawed than Spenser, and while he has plenty of machismo, it's not as in your face or as much of a caricature. His obssessive relationship with his ex-wife is a little strange, but I find most of Parker's characters' relationsips a bit over-the-top. Sunny Randall has been in two Jesse Stone novels, but I think she works better in her own stories. The whole subplot seemed there just to give Sunny something to do. She deserves better. The story was well-plotted if not always believable. If the reader does not expect realism, the story is very engaging.

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Saturday, March 03, 2007

A False Mirror by Charles Todd

Charles Todd is one of my favorite authors or should I say two of my favorite authors since it is mother/son writing team, something I did not know until this novel. I think it is the perfect melding of history, suspense, and tortured hero that is so riveting in the Ian Rutledge series. I look forward with anticipation to each and every novel.

A FALSE MIRROR has Ian Rutledge investigating a beating in the small harbor town of Hampton Regis. The year is 1920, and Rutledge is continued to be tortured by his part in the death of Hamish Macleod who served under him in the war. He was forced to execute Hamish after he refused to obey a direct order. Now Hamish is a voice inside his head that never seems to disappear, never allowing Rutledge to forget the horror, but is also a voice that is an observer to all that goes on around Rutledge giving voice to his insights. Rutledge arrives in Hampton Regis at the request of Stephen Mallory, who not only served with Rutledge but also despised him. Mallory is accused of beating Matthew Hamilton out of jealousy because Mallory was engaged to Felicity Hamilton before the war. He has escaped to the Hamilton house, and takes Felicity and her maid hostage (or so it seems). He wants Rutledge to find the real culprit behind the beating. More than one murder takes place before Rutledge is able to unravel the mysteries of the darker underbelly in the small sleepy town.

One one level Charles Todd has written a cozy whodunit, but to call it that does it a disservice. Charles Todd writes a psychological study of human frailty as much as a mystery novel. The novel is rich in characterization with a sympathetic protagonist and an effective cast of secondary characters. Todd gives a realistic sense of time and place. There is nothing that feels modern that sneaks through in the writing. You really feel like you are back in 1920. Highly recommended.

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