We’re Not Dead Yet!

I am reading a lot of escapism now in the wake of the new president. January devoured 40 books in mystery, romance, science fiction, fantasy, children’s and much non fiction. Mysteries are great fun, especially by known authors. I have many favourites and always look for their new releases. A fan of Thomas Perry, I have recommended his stories since his debut Edgar award winning novel The Butcher’s Boy (1982). Metzer’s Dog followed and then I loved the Jane Whitefield series. I own most, have read them all, given several away multiple times. I have recommended several of his later mysteries on this blog. I am just delighted to report that his latest novel is fantastic. I read this immensely satisfying tale straight through.
Title: The Old Man by Thomas Perry

Publisher: Mysterious Press January 2017, 352 pp

Genre: mystery, thriller, espionage, suspense. 5 stars *****

Author: Thomas Perry (b 1947) has a phd in English literature (and as they often do, lists employment as laborer, fisherman, maintenance, weapons mechanic, university administrator and teacher. But then it gets interesting with writer, television producer and writer, including Simon and Simon. 21 Jump Street and Star Trek, the Next Generation.) He is an award winning author, having written 24 suspense novels, notably The Butcher’s Boy (series), Metzer’s Dog and the Jane Whitefield series. Recently he has been writing stand alone mysteries/thrillers, although with this novel, I am sincerely hoping he will start a new series.

Story line: This is a dark tale of a former army special ops, who has lived quietly in Vermont for many years, raised a family, while always on alert. And they did come for him. Not just the Libyans, but our own government, in an all too possible scenario. He stays one step ahead of them using his planning, discipline, intelligence and competence. Dan Chase (aka Peter, Harry, Bill…don’t get used to the name) is a very young “old” man (60 retired widower). 60 is the new 30? Actually I am just fine with that this birthday year!

I particularly liked Julian Carson a conflicted field officer and a great pair of trained dogs, Dave and Carol. I wanted more from the ending, and a few things didn’t add up for me, especially the female character. But it was fast paced and clever with several unexpected twists. Given his hiding in plain sight, I expected to see Jane Whitefield too!

Perry has addictive writing, sharp, engaging, tight multi layered plot, with interesting characters. I thought this book was a return to his previous stellar works, although all are worth reading. I would love to see Dan/Bill become a series, would like to believe we have such individuals in the world. As well as have an older hero, whose maturity provides wisdom (and answers). This is great escape reading, perfect for your winter vacation; it also works to avoid winter cabin blues, with the rollercoaster ride providing adrenaline rushes.

Read on: if you like John LeCarre, Geoffrey Household, Jack Reacher or Jason Bourne 

John Sandford’s Virgil Flowers series

Quotes: The predicament he had created for himself when he was young had made him aware that life was precious.

Curiosity is a sign of a lively mind. That’s the only kind worth having.

Julian kept walking. He had warned his superior officers. He had told them a couple of times that the old man wasn’t just an old man, like somebody’s uncle.

He was old in the way a seven-foot rattlesnake was old.

Received as an ARC ebook from Netgalley, as well as purchased hardcover.

You don’t know Jack…

Title: The Jekyll Revelation by Robert MaselloPublisher: 47 North 477 pp

Genre: mystery, thriller fiction, historical, science fiction, fantasy

4 stars

Author:  Robert Masello is an award-winning journalist, TV writer, and a bestselling author. A recent thriller, The Einstein Prophecy was # 1 in the Kindle store. Previous books include Blood and Ice, The Medusa Amulet and the Romanov Cross. He has authored two popular studies of the Occult as well as books on writing. TV credits include “Charmed,” “Sliders,” Early Edition,” and “Poltergeist: the Legacy.” He studied writing at Princeton University under Robert Stone and Geoffrey Wolff. This is my first exposure to him, chosen from netgalley for my obsession with all things literary Scotland.

Story line:  This book has two alternating storylines: in the present storyline are we introduced to Rafael (Rafe) Salazar, an environmental science field officer, who discovers an old green steamer trunk with a flask and a journal that was written by Robert Louis Stevenson, so his past alternates with the present. In August 1888, as the stage play of “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” was taking London by storm, Jack the Ripper, perhaps the most notorious serial killer in history, struck for the first time. In reality RLS briefly was considered a suspect.

Masello weaves the different threads of action, gothic horror, history, science and science fiction together in a story that grabs your attention from the very beginning. It’s more pulp fiction than I normally read, but it’s a great action ‘film’. I enjoyed the RLS journal entries more than the present day story which included methheads, rednecks, violence and clueless male egos. Perhaps it was also that the women are superficial. Having read several biographies of Fanny Stevenson, Maesello doesn’t portray her well either. But, suspend reality for a day and enjoy the suspense. I suspect I will read more of him, especially with travel season ahead.

Read on:

If you are a fan of Dan Brown, Lee Child, Douglas Preston

Quotes:

Opening paragraph: 25th of November, 1894 From: Robert Louis Stevenson, Vailima House, Samoa To: W.E. Henley, 18 Maybury Road, Old Woking, Surrey, England Dear Henley—What I must tell you now, I tell you with dread. It has happened again. What we thought—what we prayed—we had left behind us in the back alleys and darkened doorways of Whitechapel has, I fear, awakened from its awful slumber. It has struck again, right here, in what I had foolishly thought might be Paradise. And I have been the unwitting agent of its malevolence.

Ever since he was a boy, Rafe had talked to animals; his little sister, Lucy, after seeing the movie of the same name, had called him Dr. Doolittle.
“Tell Stoker he doesn’t need to send any more emissaries. I’m sane as the Archbishop of Canterbury.”

In his hands, he held the journal, but with a kind of reverence now, that he had not initially felt. He hadn’t known at first whose initials they were—RLS—nor had he known who Louis, or Fanny, was. But then he’d read and deciphered more of the text, put it all together, and discovered that the author of the book was none other than Robert Louis Stevenson. The man whose books, like Treasure Island and Kidnapped and The Master of Ballantrae, he’d devoured as a boy.

Reading the book was slow-going—the ink had faded almost to the point of disappearing here and there, and he had to turn the pages with great care or they would shred and fall away from the binding. Stevenson’s handwriting was very peculiar, too—angular and slanted, with a lot of what looked like hasty pen marks, swipes and blottings. Rafe had read all the entries from the Belvedere clinic in Switzerland and he had been especially moved by the author’s attempts to protect the wolf he called Lord Grey from the cruelties of Yannick. On that score, he felt a real allegiance with Stevenson.

What I did not feel, and this was what astonished me even then, even in what should have been an utterly terrifying moment, was fear. I felt instead a burst of exhilaration, coupled with a sensation of freedom and power. I was not the scribbler Robert Louis Stevenson—I was the wolf Lord Grey.

“English gardens,” she said. “All weeds and no flowers.”

What he held in his hands—the seared covers and a handful of dust—was all he had to show for the last words of Robert Louis Stevenson. 

Received as an ARC ebook from Netgalley.

Fall into a good book

Title: A Time of Torment by John ConnollyPublisher: Atria 480 pp

Genre: mystery, thriller, fiction, series, Charlie Parker

5+ stars

Author:

John Connolly, born in Dublin, Ireland, studied English in Trinity College, Dublin and journalism at Dublin City University, subsequently spending five years working as a freelance journalist for The Irish Times newspaper. He continues to contribute literary articles and interviews. He has visits Maine for over 20 years. The Time of Torment is the 14th Charlie Parker novel, joining a long line of exceptional writing, plot development and suspense. The first, Every Dead Thing (1999) introduced the former policeman hunting the killer of his wife and daughter. Dark Hollow followed (2000) then The Killing Kind, (2001) and The White Road (2002). 2005 marked the publication of The Black Angel, The Unquiet, (2007) The Reapers, in 2008 The Lovers, in 2009, and The Whisperers, the ninth Charlie Parker novel (2010). The Burning Soul, was published in 2011, followed by The Wrath of Angels and The Wolf in Winter  2014. Last year I reviewed and highly recommended A Song of Shadows, the 13th Parker novel. 

In 2003, John published his first stand-alone book, Bad Men. Nocturnes, a collection of novellas and short stories followed and then Night Music: Nocturnes Volume 2, the second collection of short stories. The Book of Lost Things, concerns fairy stories and the power that books have to shape our world. The Gates (2009), was his first novel for young adults. A sequel published in 2011 as Hell’s Bells in the UK and The Infernals in the United States, was followed by The Creeps. DreamWorks Studios acquired the Samuel Johnson trilogy for development. With his partner, Jennifer Ridyard, he has written Conquest, Empire and Dominion, in the Chronicles of the Invaders YA series.

Books to Die For, a nonfiction anthology co-edited by John Connolly and Declan Burke, won the 2013 Agatha, Anthony and Macavity Awards for Best Critical/Biographical Book of the year. His website: http://www.johnconnollybooks.com.

Story line:

As always John Connolly delivers an impeccable thriller. I still insist these need to be read in order, but know people who have started in the middle of the series, even with this book. They ALL go back the first novel. You don’t have the suspense of character development nor history with details that make the over arching story. Each book is a chapter in am amazing life.

This time we start in Maine and finish with a Cult in West Virginia. It could have been anywhere in the USA, particularly the Appalachians but also the West and Midwest, PNW. Connolly nails our culture of guns, violence, paranoia but also portrays intense loyalty, family and friends. The paranormal element is slight, tangible and believable. And ever present in the next book, as clearly there is much more ahead. Eager anticipation for every word.

Every book is well written, plot driven, meticulously researched and a joy to read, and reread. I always look forward to Louis and Angel. And now await Sam’s development. I own them all. Read them in one sitting, reread to ponder nuances. And leave the lights on.

Quotes:

The Collector had not seen Parker in more than a year, and was astonished by the changes in him. It was not simply the physical alterations wrought by his suffering, although his injuries, and his ongoing recuperation from them, had left him thinner than before, and his hair was speckled with white where the shotgun pellets had torn paths through his scalp. No, this was a man transformed within as well as without, and the unease that the Collector had always experienced in Parker’s presence, a glowing ember of concern, suddenly exploded into flame.

But it was his gaze that was most altered. If it was true what they said about the eyes being the windows to the soul, then Parker’s soul burned with a new fire. His eyes held a calm conviction that Dave had not seen in them before. This was a fundamentally changed man, one who had come back strengthened, not weakened, by what he had endured, but who was also both less and more than he once had been. 

….was good news for Portland’s better restaurants, once they’d grown used to Angel’s distinctive taste in attire and concluded that he wasn’t about to steal any of the silverware.

Sam was not what he had believed her to be. She was his daughter, and more than that: she was a being in the process of becoming, but what might ultimately emerge from that metamorphosis could not be foretold. If Sam knew, then she declined to say.

Parker could spend a lifetime hunting the servants, or he could find the master and destroy him.

Law and justice are not the same.”

He had decided that when he became governor, or world ruler—whichever came first—he’d pass a law forcing people to make and take all cell phone calls outside bars and restaurants, on pain of having their phones confiscated, or fed to them. 

For a moment, Parker thought he should have become a lawyer. He could have learned to live with the shame if it enabled him to own apartment blocks.

“I ought to warn you,” Parker told Louis. “They won’t have seen anything like you before.” “You mean black, or gay?” “No, just clean.”

The Fulci brothers rarely blessed the Porterhouse with their business. They preferred to avoid blighted institutions on the grounds that they brought their own trouble with them, and so drinking somewhere like the Porterhouse was like taking sand to a desert.

And then he saw the name attached to the academic reference, and a prickle of disquiet crept across him like the touch of a spider in the dark.

A dead king, then, is a kind of effigy, typically centered on the skull of a victim, but very rare, even in its most basic form, and the creation of one, as far as we can tell, is entirely the preserve of the most extreme of criminal groups or gangs.

Maybe sometime in the past, long before people knew about fripperies like proper plumbing, A/C that didn’t sound like a failing jet engine, and towels with a consistency softer than sandpaper, Dryden’s might have served as an acceptable rest stop for those with suitably low expectations, but it now belonged to another, distant century, just like smallpox and tuberculosis, although Louis wouldn’t have been surprised if a sample of some of the gunk behind the sink in his bathroom had revealed traces of both.


Received as an ARC ebook from Netgalley, as well as purchased hardcover. Available from Rochester Public Library.

Sometimes you can’t escape the claws….

Title: Escape Clause by John Sandford (Virgil Flowers, #9 )
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons 400 pp October 2016

Genre: mystery, thriller fiction, suspense

5 stars

Author:

From Amazon author list: John Sandford is the pseudonym for the Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist John Camp. He is the author of twenty-six Prey novels, most recently Extreme Prey; four Kidd novels; nine Virgil Flowers novels; three YA novels coauthored with his wife, Michele Cook; and three stand-alones, most recently Saturn Run.

Story line:

Virgil Flowers, my favourite investigator for the MN Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA), is back for another roller coaster ride. We moved from dognapping to catnapping- with endangered tigers stolen from the Mn Zoo. Everyone else is involved in politics at the state fair (leftover from the last Davenport Prey book). Virgil gets the short straw as body counts rise, brutal attack occur and bombs go off.

I always looks for the references of either Davenport or Flowers depending on the book series, and this doesn’t disappoint. I don’t think of it as a spinoff either, Virgil feels more like a real MN cop: tough, smart, long haired (farmer), quirky Midwestern boy. Love the cultural t-shirt references. He does the legwork, finds the clues, thinks through the larger pictures and gets his sociopath, without a gun, if at all possible. The cat helped. 

I read this in one sitting, relieved to be laughing more with Virgil’s engaging antics and comments. Several of the Flowers books have been very dark indeed. The Midwest realism works on all levels, from the swimming hole to the immigrant factory to the traffic. Small town life contrasts seething political issues, with good commentary and further thought. This book will not disappoint.

Read on:

To the first Virgil Flowers Dark of the Moon, or the Prey Series.

If you like Lee Child (Jack Reacher), Michael Connelly (Harry Bosch) or David Baldacci (John Puller) series. 

Quotes:

“You must be the famous Virgil fuckin’ Flowers.”

Virgil could feel his heart clogging up with grease as he finished the sandwich,

New Ulm was getting more like LA every single day, Virgil thought.

“Did you have a gun with you?” Davenport asked. “Yeah.” “You didn’t shoot it, did you?” “No.” “There’s the fuckin’ Flowers we all know and love,” Davenport said.

…..but they had the IQs of small rocks.

“It’s another one of your damn Twin Cities murders that you keep unloading on us,” the sheriff said. “If he’d dropped the refrigerator fifteen feet west, it’d technically be a Minnesota case, which it should be.” “You’re breaking my heart,” Virgil said.

“Why do your cases always wind up like this?” Duncan asked, running a hand through his hair. “Why can’t you have a straightforward missing-tigers case?”

….had physically frozen on a street corner. For nearly half an hour, he’d been unable to pick up a foot to move. Since it was St. Paul, nobody had noticed.

“I gotta think,” Virgil said. “I mean, I am thinking, but I’m not coming up with anything.”

“Beer, weed, and skinny-dipping,” Bill said. He sounded happy about it. “It is just sort of Minnesota in the summertime, isn’t it?”

“If it was anyone else, I wouldn’t believe it. With you, I think, ‘Yeah, probably,’ ” she said.


Received as an ARC ebook from Netgalley. Will be available from Rochester Public Library.

Summertime chills

It’s a new book….if you haven’t read it! Being a column about previously published books. Perhaps recently reissued, perhaps just discovered, perhaps recommended, perhaps on sale as an ebook, or a library find. Title: Shadow Play Iris Johansen

Publisher: St Martin Press. 337 pp

Genre: mystery, thriller, suspense, fiction, 

4 stars

Author:

Iris Johansen is a New York Times best selling author whose genres include romance, mystery/suspense and crime/thriller. She is writing the Kendra Michels series with her son, the Edgar award winning screenwriter and novelist, Roy Johansen. Her daughter Tamara is her research assistant. Shadow Play is part of the Cara Delaney mini series within the well written Eve Duncan series (first published in 1998). Her next stand alone is No Easy Prey (April 2017); Nightwatch (October 2016 with Roy). 

Story line:

Shadow Play is the first book in a trilogy, within the Eve Duncan series (and book 19 of that). The other two have recently been published, Hide Away and Night and Day, which is why I am reviewing now. Each of the books ends on a cliff hanger, and to me was not complete. Each installment is very good, there is satisfactory character development, action, adventure and more than a few sociopaths. 

Eve Duncan is a world renowned forensic sculptor who has helped many families find closure. Early books focused on the kidnapping and death of her young daughter Bonnie. Her quest for justice with her police detective, now love, provided fascinating, all too real, and compelling reading. They now live in rural Georgia but head to California to solve this crime (and over to Scotland and Russia for the next two books). There are elements of paranormal/supernatural in this series, communicating with the dead, seeing ghosts or understanding animals. It is still a relief to not have graphic sex or violence (although there are plenty of gruesome details) with a mystery, and the detailed relationships between Eve and Quinn as well as Jane, Margaret, Cara, Jenny and Bonnie are lovely. The series looks to continue strongly, with additional developments.

Read on:

If you like Kathy Reichs, Lisa Jackson, Kay Hooper, JD Robb, Karen Robards, Beverly Connor, Heather Graham

Quotes:

This child’s killer might only have been a shadow-figure, but it was malignant and evil and Eve felt as if she could reach out and touch him. 

Out of the blue, out of the darkness, those words had come to her. Weird. Imagination?

…When I work on a skull, it doesn’t usually want to have a conversation.” She shook her head. “Well, that’s not quite true, it did happen to me once before, and that may be why I got a little nervous. I was working on a very nasty, vindictive man who only wanted to bring me into his world and hurt me. 

“And I’ll tell Joe Quinn what you’ve said if it will make you feel better. I’m sure that dossier you have on me stressed Joe’s importance in my life. He’s very good at eliminating threats, real or otherwise.”

How could she tell him that it wasn’t his competence but her own fear that she’d be responsible for something happening to him? Joe was like a force of nature when he was on the hunt.

Margaret nodded. “Okay, here goes. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been able to communicate with animals. I can kind of merge and read them.” Silence. “Read them?” Nalchek repeated. “Read their minds?” “No, not usually. Oh, sometimes. It depends on the species.

His voice was soft, urgent. “I have so much love for you, Eve. I’m full of it, you’re my center. You always have been and always will be. If your Bonnie drifts away from you, I’ll just pour more of that love toward you. I’ll find a way to stop you from hurting. I promise you.

Received as an ARC ebook from Netgalley. Available from Rochester Public Library (and as Ebooks).


Shadows…

Thrilling Summer Chills

Title: Pop Goes the Weasel by MJ ArlidgePublisher: Berkley 426 pp (2014/2015/2016)

Genre: mystery, thriller, Helen Grace, psychological thriller, series, serial killer

4.5 stars

Author:

Arlidge (b 1974) has spent 15 year’s writing high drama, prime time crime series for ITV, British television. He recently started the Det Helen Grace series, now into 6 books. Pop goes the Weasel is the 2nd, and I confess I couldn’t wait and read right through five, (Doll’s House, Liar, Liar, Little Boy Blue) eagerly awaiting the publication this autumn of Hide and Seek. His writing is terse, spare in these dark, fast paced, gritty thrillers. The character development improves with each novel and secondary characters play wider varied roles. I find these addictive, in a most unpleasant way. These are not cosy mysteries as realistic events happen that will cause nightmares. They are all psychological thrillers that provide fresh angles to some truly horrible serial killers and their gruesome crimes. Although I think the first book was the most original.

Story line:

In Pop goes the Weasel, as in all, Det Helen Grace is committed to her job, still largely dysfunctional in society, keeps secrets, remains respected but not liked in the Southhampton Force, and can be trusted to never quit. These mysteries must be read in order for the personal history, character development and escalating tension. As it’s a series, I know she will survive, but each book represents a challenge as to what happens next. There are great narrative twists. Read collectively they are a roller coaster! It’s always a race against time to find the killer before there is a next victim. They are very fast paced, short chapters, with vivid descriptions of time and place. I will continue to read them to see Det Grace grapple with her life.

Read on:

Ruth Rendell, PDJames, Peter Robinson, John Connolly, Stuart McBride, Peter May

Watch Luther, Dexter, MI5, Broadchurch, The Tunnel

Quotes:

Opening line The fog crept in from the sea, suffocating the city.

Received as an ARC ebook from Netgalley. 

It’s a new book…

…..If you haven’t read it!

Being a column about previously published books. Perhaps recently reissued, perhaps just discovered, perhaps recommended, perhaps on sale as an ebook, or a library find.  I have had this book on my TBR pile for some time, eagerly anticipating it because it is the 9th in the Tony Hill Carol Jordan series. Yet, I have to be in just the right mood to read these: they aren’t for the faint of heart, nor lonely late night readings. And I always read them in one sitting because I absolutely have to know what happens. 

Title: Splinter the Silence by Val McDermid (2015)

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press. 416 pp

Genre: mystery, thriller, fiction, crime, Scottish author, English mysteries, series, serial killers

4+ stars

Author:

Biographical Notes 

“Val McDermid (b 1955) is a No. 1 bestselling author whose (29) novels have been translated into more than thirty languages, and have sold over eleven million copies. She has won many awards internationally, including the CWA Gold Dagger for best crime novel of the year (Mermaids Singing, the first Hill and Jordan 1995) and the LA Times Book of the Year Award. She was inducted into the ITV3 Crime Thriller Awards Hall of Fame in 2009 and was the recipient of the CWA Cartier Diamond Dagger for 2010. In 2011 she received the Lambda Literary Foundation Pioneer Award. She writes full time and divides her time between Cheshire and Edinburgh.” She is part of Tartan Noir, and cofounder of Harrogate Crime Writing festival.

From a personal interview: “You wouldn’t know it but I’m very good…. at knitting. My favourite work of art….is Portrait of a Young Man by Botticelli in the National Gallery. My five year plan….to stay alive, write more books.”

Story line:

This novel centers on mysterious deaths of several women who have been viciously cyber bullied. Dr Tony Hill thinks they are more than suicides, but first he has to rescue ex DCI Jordan, who in retirement has been drinking herself to death. Pressured into building a new department MIT (Major Incident Team) she assembles old colleagues and new technologies. I loved Det Stacey Chenn, IT expert and hacker extraordinaire, a la MI-5 style. Tony remains the socially awkward but brilliant profiler. I completely understand his need to have a storage unit to house his expansive library. (I also liked the literary clues). McDermid cleverly portrays the intricate complexities of relationships, consequences, criminal minds, alcoholism, internet trolls and the everyday all too real stories. She has been called the Queen of the psychological thriller.

I await the next book, with the continuation of their complex friendship/ relationship, the new team, another horrifying killer, the departmental challenges, and a satisfying intricate read.

You could start with this book, and then feel compelled to read the rest. There is enough backstory to understand the characters, but the first 6 books were cracking good reads.

NB the audio book read by Gerard Doyle is also very well done. 

Read on:

Val McDermid’s Lindsay Gordon series(6), Kate Branigan series(6), and next Karen Pirie in December 2016. Or watch The Wire in the Blood (6 seasons, 2002-2008)

If you like Thomas Harris, Kathy Reichs, Patricia Cornwell, Deborah Crombie, Tess Gerritsen, Tana French, Gillian Flynn

Quotes:

She didn’t think there actually was a word for the complicated matrix of feelings that bound her to Tony and him to her. With anyone else, so much intimacy would inevitably have led them to bed. But in spite of the chemistry between them, in spite of the sparks and the intensity, it was as if there was an electrical fence between them. And that was on the good days.

All his working life, he’d been held up as the expert in empathy, the one who knew how to stand inside other people’s skin and report back on what they felt and why they felt it.

Received as an ARC ebook from Netgalley, as well as purchased hardcover. Available from Rochester Public Library.