Auntie M has been reading up a storm this summer and brings you some of the finest crime novels out there for your perusal. These have things in common, which is why these particular novels are grouped together: darn fine stories supported by great writing. Enjoy~
Luke Delany’s third DI Sean Corrigan police procedural will grab you from its creepy opening. The Toy Taker starts out strong and never lets up, with Corrigan’s team at Scotland Yard covering the sickest criminals that roam the metropolitan mecca.
Delany’s experience as a former CID investigator serves him well and makes the story jolt into reality when a young boy is discovered missing from his bed one morning in a tony London suburb. There’s no sign of an intruder and no alarms were tripped; there are no signs of a struggle. Corrigan has a knack of being able to put himself into the mind of the criminal he’s seeking, a device that seems to have left him in this installment, frustrating him, his wife, and his colleagues.
The action doesn’t let up, even when another child is taken. What is the hold this predator has over the children who appear to have gone willingly with a stranger? Tautl written and gGuaranteed to keep you up late at night.
After the huge success of Bernard Minier’s The Frozen Dead, Auntie M was not the only reader looking forward to the sequel featuring Commandant Martin Servaz of the Toulouse Crime Squad. A Song for Drowned Souls is the kind of crime novel that presents a fascinating look at the lives of the perpetrator and of the team on the hunt.
A young man is found, stunned, sitting by a swimming pool where dolls float on its surface. He’s discovered his teacher, drowned in her bath in a horrific manner, and is arrested for her murder. Servaz is called by his former college lover, Marianne, and immediately rushes over and takes over the investigation. The arrested boy is her son and she implores Servaz to clear Hugo.
To do so, he must reopen old wounds of his time at the Marsac school in the Pyrenees at the elite school where the victim taught. He will run into former students now teaching there during the case and find a former friend and competitor for Marianne’s affections figures in the case. Servaz’s daughter has just started in the prep division there and her presence will provide both a distraction and a boon to his investigation as it soon becomes apparent there are ties between students at the school and the murdered woman.
Miner examines the way the past haunts our present in a way that is chilling and highly believable.
Even if you’ve never visited the area, Minier will have you breathing in the scent of the trees in this evocative thriller that takes police procedurals to a new height. Highly recommended.
Kjell Eriksson’s Ann Lindell series continues with an unusual installment, not your usual hurried murder investigation at all, in Open Grave. The idea here is one more of a series of incidents that may or may not lead to murder. And the tension is palpable.
An aging professor has just won the Nobel Prize for Medicine, yet instead of rejoicing, the announcement brings problems to the doctor’s upper-class neighborhood. There are jealousies amongst his colleagues, some who are his neighbors, and even his housekeeper of decades seems to be on on the verge of leaving. What is there about the man that causes this reason for celebration to bring out the worst in people?
Eriksson spools out the story of the participants by delving into their pasts as unusual incidents start to happen. When Inspector Ann Lindell tries to sort out what is happening, her own past rears its head into the carefully arranged present she’s trying to fashion. And the expected outcome is far from the ending twist. The author knows human nature and describes it well in this psychological study that is subtle and character-driven.
Julia Dahl’s first crime novel, Invisible City, garnered multiple award nominations and is still nominated for more. It was a highly rated debut for Auntie M last year so she was looking forward to its newest, run you down, featuring young reporter Rebekah Roberts.
Rebekah’s ties to the Hasidic community started in the first book, her interested piqued by trying to find the mother she doesn’t know after Aviva Kagan abandoned her as a baby to be raised by her Christian father. Not sure she’s ready to meet the woman she’s finally found, Rebekah is drawn into Aviva’s community in Roseville, NY, by a man who contacts her about his young wife’s mysterious death.
Pessie Goldin’s body was found in her bathtub, an apparent accident or unmentionable suicide–but her husband believes she was murdered. As she investigates, Rebekah will find others like her mother who left the ultra-conservative sect and formed their own group. Some rage about the restraints they were forced to live under in their old community. And others find themselves inexplicably mixed up with groups who would kill without a clear thought for the lives and beliefs of others.
Dahl does a lovely job of letting Rebekah tell readers her story from her point of view as an outsider to a culture she’s trying to understand, while developing a wallop of a story that is its own mystery. One aspect Auntie M particularly enjoyed was seeing the protagonist’s growth and maturity in her job and in her personal life, which adds to the compelling aspect of the mystery. Don’t miss this one.
Auntie M enjoyed UK author Tony Parson’s foray into crime novels with The Murder Man, which introduced DI Max Wolfe, his daughter Scout, and their personable dog, Stan. With The Slaughter Man, Max returns to investigate a heinous crime that jumps off the page from the Prologue describing the horrific slaughter of an entire family, except for the youngest child, apparently kidnapped.
It’s New Year’s Day when this occurs and the day after this wealthy family is found inside their gated-community home, all dead from a most unusual method: a cattle gun, used to stun cattle before butchering. When Max visits Scotland Yard’s Black Museum for background, he comes across a murderer who used just this method three decades ago and was dubbed The Slaughter Man by the press. Could the man, now released from prison, be on a murdering rampage? And why this particular family?
The happy family included two teens and parents who were former Olympians. There’s history here and Max is determined to find out how the past of the parents has led to this slaughter, always aware that as time goes by, his chances of finding the kidnapped boy alive grow dimmer.
Auntie M marveled at Max’s ability to withstand physical punishment, but Parsons does a good job illustrating his physical prowess and workouts at a local boxing club to balance what could be seen as super-human. For Max is definitely a very human detective, devoted to his daughter and her safely and happiness, and this makes him a very real character who leaps off the page and who readers will follow anywhere he takes them. Highly recommended.
Sophie Hannah seems to be everywhere, and Auntie M says this with all due respect and admiration. Last year's The Telling Error has been published in the US recently under the title Woman with a Secret and was previously reviewed on this blog on February 1st. It’s the tale of a woman keeping a secret and brings back the unusual husband-and-wife detective duo of Simon Waterhouse and Charlie Zailer, an interesting and intriguing pair, and if you haven’t made their acquaintance yet, now’s the time to do it.
Hannah was also the author of the new Hercule Poirot novel authorized by Agatha Christie’s estate, The Monogram Murders, notable for her outstanding voice of Poirot, which so many readers miss. Now she has a standalone in A Game For All The Family, which shows her deft hand at psychological thrillers, as well as her ability to create an intriguing story from the most seemingly innocuous bits of people’s lives that somehow escalate before the reader’s eyes into full-blown terror.
Justine Merrison is moving with her family to escape London and her high pressure job to the lovely Devon countryside, home to Dame Agatha, by the way. She has huge plans to do nothing at all, at least for a while, but the family is no sooner moved in than teen daughter Ellen withdraws and changes personality.
It seems Ellen has written a story that describes a grisly murder set in the family’s gorgeous new home and just happened to name a character after herself. What starts out as a school assignment morphs into the story of someone else’s family. Her good friend is expelled from school for a trifle and when Justine goes to the school to ask the head to reconsider, she’s told the student doesn’t exist and that he never attended the school. Who is going crazy–Ellen or the school? And then the anonymous calls start, and Justine finds herself accused of sharing a murderous past with the caller whose voice she doesn’t recognize.
How this falls out is part of the fun of reading the unique novel where Justine must find out just whom she’s supposed to be in order to stop the threat to her family. Twisted and entertaining.
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