Deborah Crombie: The Sound of Broken Glass Sunday, Feb 24 2013 

One of the delights of Deborah Crombie’s novels are the British neighborhoods and environs she explores for her murder mysteries. images_067

In this 15th outing between her now-married detective pair of Gemma James and Duncan Kincaid, The Sound of Broken Glass remains firmly rooted in foggy London in the Crystal Palace area. Chapter epigraphs, a device Auntie M highly enjoys, all pertain to the history and destruction of the Crystal Palace building that gave the area its name.

Crombie has kept the series fresh and humanizing by moving along the personal relationships in the Kincaid household and allowing for the growth of the marriage between the main characters. With the addition to their family of a three year-old foster daughter, Charlotte, it is Duncan’s turn to be at home to assist the traumatized little girl through her integration into their family and a more normal life. These moments remind us that police men and women have families of their own, whose absences are noted when normal routines must be adjusted around the demands of a murder investigation.

The main case belongs to Gemma this time, aided by DS Melody Talbot. They investigate the murder of a barrister who has been taking sole care of his wife, suffering from increasing dementia. The body of Vincent Arnott is found in a seedy hotel in the Crystal Palace area, naked, trussed and strangled. The contrast between the man’s public and private faces becomes immediately apparent and startling.

Then a second barrister is killed in the same way and additional evidence ties the cases together. The deaths tie in with a band playing in the area, and especially their talented guitarist, perched on the edge of fame. Is a serial killer at work?

Gemma and Melody must unravel connections going back over fifteen years to tie these murders together. At the heart they will find a bullied and lonely thirteen year-old boy and his relationship with a recently widowed teacher and neighbor. Duncan’s fears rise when a personal connection ties him to one of the suspects and provides the thread between the two murder victims.

When the past and the present collide, Gemma and Melody find themselves in the middle of an ice storm, racing through the steep streets of Crystal Palace to prevent more deaths.

Consistent and compelling, fans of the series won’t be disappointed with Crombie’s latest offering.

 

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Crossbones Yard: Kate Rhodes Sunday, Feb 17 2013 

Poet Kate Rhodes brings London’s neighborhoods vividly alive to readers in her debut psychological thriller, Crossbones Yard.

These areas, some glitzy and others tawdry, are all known to psychologist Alice Rhodes, whose daily runs take her places that don’t usually faze her, but do give her the endorphin high that keeps her own painful memories at bay.  Fighting claustrophobia on a daily basis, she sublimates her nightmares by helping others battle theirs.

Life for Alice includes a busy practice schedule and a brother battling his own demons who often ends up on her doorstep, but it is balanced by a good-looking boyfriend and close friends who care about her. Then one evening run brings complications Alice could never expect. Searching the roads for the quickest way home, Alice sees two ironwork gates she’s never noticed before, decorated with dozens of ribbons, cards and bits of paper.

But it’s what she spies inside that will radically change her life: an open hand reaching out for her through the railing, connected to a fragile wrist and from there to the very dead body of a young woman on the other side of the gate.                                                                                        9781444738766

This is Crossbones Yard, a former graveyard for prostitutes. Trying to conceal her emotion, the surly detective who shows up and takes Alice home is annoyed at her pretense of composure.

As part of her duties, Alice has just evaluated a convicted killer about to be released from prison at the behest of the overweight DCI Burns. She’s only mildly surprised to find he’s the investigating detective on the case. He has an uncanny knack for getting Alice to do his bidding, and she soon feels as if she’s become his personal research assistant.  And that surly detective? He’s Burns’ detective sergeant, Ben Alvarez, and soon Alice finds herself in his company more than she’d like.

Then it becomes apparent that the dead woman’s injuries are vastly similar to those of the style of a team of serial killers. Ray and Marie Benson tortured and killed thirteen women before being caught; five of their victims were never found. Before long, Burns has Alice working on a psychological profile of this copycat killer.

Marie is still alive, languishing in prison. Does she hold the key to this gruesome murder? Will she tell Alice is she does?

And what of Morris Cley, the just-released murderer whom Alice feels is not capable of this kind of planning. Cley lived with the Bensons. How is he connected with the new murders?

With ties to her own background, Alice will find herself and those she loves in jeopardy as this case comes too close to home.

This wonderful debut sports an ending that has a switchback twist that will leave you breathless. With it’s swift pacing and brief, staccato scenes, readers will find themselves swept up into Alice’s story. The plotting is complex, and Alice is a protagonist readers will want to follow.

Charles Todd: Proof of Guilt Sunday, Feb 10 2013 

000290326In their fifteenth outing together, mother-and-son team Caroline and Charles Todd follow Scotland Yard Inspector Ian Rutledge into the countryside in search of a murderer in Proof of Guilt.

Those new to the series learn enough of his back-story and WWI experience to understand his personal demons and the reason for the ever-present Hamish, the voice who alternately guides and chides the detective, just over his shoulder and always out of sight.

Readers familiar with the series will enjoy Rutledge’s careful but frustrating investigation. His sister Frances, whom Rutledge has come to depend upon for companionship in his darker days, has her own surprising news.

This time Rutledge is dealing with getting to know his new Acting Chief Superintendent, a man who decides on a course based on reading reports and refuses to listen to Rutledge’s instinctual alternate theories. At times it seems the Super is deliberately thwarting Rutledge in his investigation.

When a car runs over the body of young man, the heirloom pocket watch found on him is the only clue to his identity. It soon becomes apparent the man did not die on the quiet but dignified street where he was found, but was dumped there.

Is this a clue to who he is, or a warning to someone living on that street?

The search for the man’s identity leads Rutledge to the co-owner of a Madeira wine company. Lewis French has gone missing, but it’s not his body on the slab in the morgue. Then how did the dead man end up with French’s watch?

And where is Lewis French?

Rutledge finds French’s sister to be an angry and jealous person who had quarreled with her brother just before his disappearance; his fiancee` seems less concerned than she might be. He also finds himself drawn to the man’s former jilted fiancee`. There seem to be plenty of people who might want French dead.

But if French is dead, where is his body? And how does a second disappearance of a war veteran tie in?

The time period necessitates a slower pace, as Rutledge must navigate by his own motor car to the various country villages outside London that eat into his precious time to follow the slender threads he uncovers.

This is not a fast-paced thriller but more the deliberate and tenacious unraveling of a plot with fingers lasting decades. Rutledge must find evidence to trap the killer before he becomes the latest victim.

 

Karen Pullen: Cold Feet Sunday, Feb 3 2013 

NC author Karen Pullen introduces readers to SBI agent Stella Lavender in this first of a planned series, Cold Feet.517MZsVDAdL

Using Stella’s humor along with nice twists of plot, Pullen’s series promises to be a winner.26 year old Stella has been working as an undercover drug agent, to the chagrin of the grandmother who raised her.

Fern is an accomplished painter, a good-looking woman who doesn’t believe in marriage, who still lives in the farmhouse where she raised Stella after her own daughter disappeared.

Stella is still smarting after breaking off her wedding earlier in the year to a fellow agent. Unfortunately, she still works with Hogan Leith, a terrific computer analyst and researcher whose skills she will need sooner than she thinks.

Fern’s client, Tricia Scott, has commissioned Fern to paint the cover for her soon-to-be-published religious inspirational book. When she invites Fern to her son’s wedding, Fern drags Stella along to the event, held at the gaudy Rosscairn Castle Bed and Breakfast, built in 1915 by a millionaire to be a sized-down replica of Bonny Prince Charlie’s summer home. There’s enough Black Watch plaid and ceremonial swords to create a formal but gloomy atmosphere.

It’s a day off for Stella, or at least she thinks so as she surveys the assemblage gathered on a tented side lawn. After half an hour of waiting, Stella’s antenna twitch when the maid of honor appears and urges the innkeeper to follow her back into the house. Stella escapes to find a ladies room,  but follows the sound of agitated voices to a room at the end of the hall and pushes the door open.

” ‘Dead’ and ‘Bride’ don’t belong in the same sentence, but this bride was dead.”

And readers are off and running with Stella, who juggles her night-time undercover drug-buying duties with a secondment to the murder investigation of Justine Bradley, headed up by the handsome Lieutenant Anselmo Morales. The bride has been poisoned, resulting in a horrific death, and Stella is determined to uncover her murderer to prove to her boss she can handle being a permanent part of the murder team.

With her evenings filled with her partner, Fredericks, a foodie who regales Stella with his cuisine and dinner parties, Stella juggles walks with her dog, Merle, with her daytime investigating with Morales. She also hits up Hogan for needed background research, which put them in several interesting situations.

What comes to light during the bride’s autopsy sets off an unusual chain of events that will bring all of those at the wedding under the microscope.

Things become even more complicated with the arrival of Jax Covas, a man with more than the hint of a pirate about him due to his black patch over his left eye, whom Fern met at the wedding. He has promised to rebuild her chicken coop and garden but Stella thinks there’s chemistry between her grandmother and the courtly gent.
Pullen does an admirable job of plausibly crossing plot lines between the various characters. She also illustrates the danger and intrigue of the world of drugs to those who sell it and those who become enslaved to it.Her North Carolina setting springs to life, too. There’s danger, romance, and more than a fair bit of Stella’s dry humor as readers become engaged with this resourceful and interesting character.Athor Margaret Maron says: “Pullen combines good suspense with such nice touches of humor that this strong debut promises to turn into a habit-forming series.”

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Liz Loves Books

The Wonderful World of Reading

The Life of Guppy

the care and feeding of our little fish

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Reading is a wonderful adventure!

JoHanna Massey

“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.” ― Carl Sagan

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Smile! Don't look back in anger.

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Writers & Writing, my own & other people's; movies, art, music & the search for a perfect flat white - the bits & pieces of a writing life.

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Author and reviewer of period crime fiction

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John Harvey on Books & Writing - his own & other people 's - Art, Music, Movies, & the elusive search for the perfect Flat White.

A thrilling Murder-Mystery...

...now being made into a radio drama

BOOK SHELF

"Tell me and I forget-Show me and I remember-Involve me and I learn"

Past Offences: Classic crime, thrillers and mystery book reviews

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