Bruce Robert Coffin: Beyond the Truth Friday, Oct 26 2018 

Coffin’s third Detective Bryon crime mystery, Beyond the Truth, just may be his best yet.

The former Portland, Maine detective brings his knowledge of the town and his feel for the politics of crime management to the forefront in this newest addition to his series.

Both of the previous mysteries in the series, Among the Shadows, and Beneath the Depths, have a feel realistic feel because of Coffin’s background, and that truthfulness rings through here as well. The lousy food, long hours, mixed emotions and job culture are all exhibited.

Beyond the Truth has multiple layers that elevate it from the usual crime drama. There are issues haunting Byron that must be addressed and the status of his personal relationship, but at the center of it all is an officer-involved shooting, when a colleague and good cop shoots a teen fleeing from an armed robbery.

It doesn’t help that the gun the teen pointed at the officer isn’t found at the crime scene, and with echoes of so many recent officer-involved shootings, protests and riots soon break out.

Then there are the politics that revolved around that kind of crime, from the Mayor’s office to the police hierarchy. At the heart of it all is a dead boy and a good officer who feels he’s become undone by the circumstances and must face the fact he killed a young man.

This is topical on so many levels, yet has a very personal feel about it. Portland and its environs come alive under Coffin’s pen as he captures the many faces of that town. The investigation feels real, with families and friends of the dead youth investigated, his school and mates, and above all, the seedy underbelly of the town.

A tense and exciting read with a swiftly-paced storyline. Engrossing.

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James Hayman: A Fatal Obsession Saturday, Oct 6 2018 

James Hayman’s McCabe and Savage thrillers bring the Maine detectives to a very personal New York City case in A Fatal Obsession.

When his brother Bobby calls to say their mother is in the hospital, dying after a bad fall at her care facility, he knows it’s time he headed down to make his farewells. Bobby can’t reach his daughter, Zoe, a talented young actress, but as it was the closing night of her playing Desdemona in Othello, he figures she’s out late at a cast party.

That couldn’t be further from the truth, for Zoe has been kidnapped and beaten up, and spirited away from the city, where she’s hidden by her captor.

Maggie Savage accompanies McCabe to meet the family she’ll be entering, as the couple as just become engaged the night before. But thoughts of happy times are pushed aside when it becomes obvious Zoe’s apartment is the scene of a struggle–and then a woman’s body is found.

This comes in a wave of abduction murders of young starlets, actresses and even a ballerina. With the stakes so high, McCabe and Savage ask to be seconded to the team searching for Zoe.

It’s a twisted and high-speed investigation as the clock ticks down the time Zoe can survive. Old wounds must be bandaged over for McCabe to join in but finally he and Maggie are legitimate members of the team.

With its look inside the teamwork needed to pull off a major investigation, Maggie’s interviewing skills will come to the forefront when a suspect is finally found, with unexpected results.

A compulsively readable and fast-paced thriller to this series.

Roger Johns: River of Secrets Tuesday, Aug 28 2018 


Roger Johns’ returns with a sequel to last year’s stunning debut, Dark River Rising, which introduced intriguing Baton Rouge homicide detective Wallace Hartman. River of Secrets is a compelling read that will have readers placing Johns on their favorites list and waiting anxiously for the next installment.

The case Wallace is handed hits close to home when the half brother of her best friend from childhood is the main suspect in a murder investigation.

Controversial state senator Herbert Marioneaux has been murdered in a disturbing way, and his past and present behavior leads to a long list of suspects. But Eddie Pitkin heads that list when his DNA is found on Marioneaux’s body.

As Wallace investigates, she learns the chameleon-like senator changed his views as often as some people change their clothes, leading to factions on many sides of hot-button issues who had reason to distrust the man. Is Eddie being set up?

Protests from many factions clog Wallace’s investigation, and she receives political pushback from higher ups, while dealing with a snarky new partner. Then it becomes obvious there’s a leak, and suddenly she doesn’t know whom she can trust. A touch of romance hits just the right note as Wallace tries to cram a personal life into a detective’s hours.

This is a well-plotted and crafted procedural readers will gobble up with its quick pacing and engaging characters. Johns balances literate prose with a strong sense of his setting and natural dialogue. A series to follow. Highly recommended.

Emily Winslow: Look for Her Tuesday, Feb 13 2018 

Names are important in Emily Winslow’s newest, Look for Her. The author’s Cambridge mysteries are so much more than standard police procedurals, plumbing the depths of a complex psychological thriller.

With each chapter in first person point of view, suspects and detectives alike spring off the page as we enter their thoughts and see how they act and react. Detective Chloe Frohmann in particular has a wry humor that freshens up her scenes and keep readers hooked in seeing how she and her old boss, Morris, now on Cold Case reviews, will handle things when he asks her to for help on his first case, even though she’s technically still on maternity leave and trying to decide what to name her newborn daughter.

The small town of Lilling had never gotten over the disappearance and presumed death of a young teen in 1976, and when a decomposed body wearing her clothes is found in 1992, wearing the missing girl’s clothing, as least her end result is known. Or is it? New DNA evidence complicates more than it solves.

What’s still unknown is who took Annalise Wood and killed her. It’s a name that becomes important as the celebrity of the missing girl lingers. For one young woman, Annalise becomes the object of her jealous obsession, leading to catastrophic events as secrets long buried rise to the surface, just like the body found by a dog walker after the roots of a tree gave up their secret bounty.

An accomplished addition to the series, Winslow’s ability to shade people and show their many sides adds texture and believeability to the story, even as both obfuscate the complicated truth.

Cambridge and its environs are also meticulously woven into the fabric of the story, so that even if a reader hasn’t visited that storied city, they will come away feeling the presence of the ancient colleges residing alongside more modern buildings as yet another character, almost essential to the story.

A compelling and intricate plot makes this an evocative read. Highly recommended.

Clare MacKintosh: I See You Sunday, Feb 26 2017 

i-see-you

After Clare MacKintosh’s I Let You Go comes the chilling tale of an average woman in an average town, where nothing about her life becomes average at all, in I See You.

Zoe Walker has two children still living at home and a partner who adores her. She’s even civil with her ex, after a failed marriage. Working means a long commute into London, which she uses to people-watch and she passes the time reading magazines and newspapers.

Then an ad catches her eye: is that her own picture staring back at her from the site FindTheOne.com? What starts out as a possible mistake soon turns into something much more, when Zoe’s nervousness at the ad has her scouring back issues and she uncovers sees a pattern. Other women whose photos were in these ads were raped, had their houses broken into, or worse–were murdered.

Kelly Swift it a policewoman on a mission, determined to show her superiors she’s learned from an early mistake when she let her rage get the best of her when dealing with a rapist. After time spent paying her dues on different details, she begs for a chance to prove herself once she and Zoe convince the powers-that-be that these cases are connected.

They soon uncover that these women were stalked by people who pay into a website to gain their daily routine. It’s a nightmarish concept that has Zoe and everyone around her looking over their shoulders.

This is a multi-layered story, with Kelly’s as strong as Zoe’s, and interlaced with snippets of the voice of the person behind the scheme. Soon Zoe doesn’t trust anyone, and the spectacular twist at the end evolves into a double twist.

MacIntosh’s twelve years on the police force give her police scenes authenticity, whether Kelly is dealing with police politics or interviewing a suspect in the custody suite.

Readers won’t be able to put down this accomplished psychological thriller.

As a special treat, here’s a short video of Clare MacKintosh talking about her first piece of writing and the surprises of a writer’s life:

https://youtu.be/bY0ku9BwfcU