Fine Crime Fiction for Fall Reading Monday, Sep 21 2015 

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~

ToyTaker
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.

SongDrownedSouls
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.

Open Grave
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.

run you down

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.

Slaughter Man
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.

GameFamily
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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.

A Bag of Goodies: Robertson, Entwistle, Parks, Sigurdartdottir, & Hawley Sunday, May 11 2014 

Auntie M wishes all the mothers reading this a very Happy Mother’s Day.
Today she’s going to give you a really mixed bag of goodies to choose from for your reading pleasure.MoriarityReturnsLetter

First up is Moriarty Returns a Letter by Michael Robertson, the continuing saga of brothers Nigel and Reggie Heath, whose law firm is located at 221B Baker Street. Its rental comes with the added burden of herding the mail that arrives addressed to Sherlock Holmes.

This innovative series is pure delight, and opens with an exhibition of vintage letters to Sherlock Holmes going on display at the Marylebone Hotel. Reggie and his fiancee Laura are set to leave on an engagement trip, a precursor to their long-anticipated wedding.

Then Darla Rennie turns up, a troubled young woman convinced Reggie is Sherlock Holmes and that she is the descendent of Moriarty. With the single-minded determination and cunning abilities of the evil Professor, Darla manages to turn up at unexpected times and places and generally throws a substantive monkey wrench into the proceedings.

The history of her gripe has its seeds in the death of an 1890’s Pinkerton officer from America working undercover in England. His story and one from the 1940’s add to the storyline as the contemporary 1990’s events unfold.

Nigel and Reggie prove an interesting pair of protagonists in the series, not quite Holmes nor Watson, but certainly with shades of each in their makeup. A fine addition to the series.

thraxton-hall-200
Keeping with the Sherlockian theme, the next offering is Vaughn Entwistle’s The Revenant of Thraxton Hall, which goes back in time to the days immediately after Sir Arthur Conan Doyle killed off Holmes in his story in The Strand Magazine, setting off a public frenzy that saw people sporting black arm bands in mourning and pelting the author with rotten tomatoes when they recognized him out in public.

When medium Hope Thraxton asks Conan Doyle to attend her, the young heiress informs him she needs his help to stop a murder–hers. Despite misgivings at leaving his ill wife at home, the author jumps at the chance to leave town,an dis accompanied by his good friend, Oscar Wilde. Together the two venture to Thraxton Hall for the meeting of the Society for Psychical Research, a group of supernaturalists who each have a motive for wanting young Hope’s death.

Spookiness abounds, with weird happenings and nightly seances, acts of levitation and the pronouncements of a russian mystic of the revenant, or returning spirit, who haunts Thraxton Hall. All of the action is lightened by Wilde’s breezy patter and affectations. The two men will attempt to figure out the real motives of those at the gathering before murder can occur. The first of a planned series, these feature Conan Doyle’s real-life absorption with the paranormal and promise to be filled with whimsy quirks and fantastical plots.

player-225

Leaving England for Newark, New Jersey, brings us to Brad Park’s newest Carter Ross mystery, The Player. Told in first-person narrative with Ross’ wry humor at the forefront, this caper revolves around strange illnesses affecting the residents of a small neighborhood, a story that sets Ross’ antenna quivering.

As he uses the skills of a new intern to augment his work, Ross fends off the odd relationship he’s developed with his editor and former lover, Tina, but a new wrinkle has them revisiting their roles. The story he’s working on goes beyond a supposedly smarmy developer and equally suspicious crime boss.

But his poking around sets off alarms and he soon finds himself embroiled in the people who might benefit from a class action lawsuit and finds he’s found himself a brand new enemy.

Park’s humor keeps this series from bogging down while he tackles serious issues and gives outsiders a real perspective of life inside a newspaper and of blue collar Newark.

IRememberYou

Icelandic author Yrsa Sigurdartdottir already has a following for her mystery series featuring lawyer Thora Gudmundsdottir. She returns with a new a ghost story, I Remember You, that will wrap you up in its eeriness and leave an impact long after the last page has been turned.

Three people arrive in the isolated village of the Icelandic Westfjords, set to start work on renovating an old house. Bought by two male friends, one has died suddenly, leaving his widow to accompany the other married couple as they set to work.

The remoteness and debilitated condition of the house add to the spooky atmosphere as weird things start to happen. It soon becomes evident that some otherworldly force wants them to leave the house.

The story runs alongside the saga of a divorced physician who becomes involved in investigating the suicide of a woman–a woman he discovers had become obsessed with his own son, who disappeared and is presumed dead.

This scary thriller who have you on the edge of your sheet and looking over your shoulder. If you like stories that raise the hairs on the back of your neck, this one’s for you.

Conspiracy

Noah Hawley has created and written screenplays and television shows and several previous novels. Now he brings A Conspiracy of Tall Men to the reader in the same way controversy followed him for The Good Father.

In this offering, Linus Owen teaches conspiracy theory on the college level and follows his own ideas on the subject with two dedicated theorist friends in his off-time. He and his wife, advertising executive Claudia, have an ideal life and have decided to start their family after her return from visiting her mother in Chicago.

Then two FBI agents arrive with startling news. Claudia has been killed in a plane crash–but the plane was headed to Brazil. What she was doing on that plane and how she got there form the basis of the investigation Linus pursues.

From the get go, he sees the list of passengers he’s received is not complete. Then he learns Claudia’s fellow traveler was VP of a large pharmaceutical company. With his conspiracy radar pinging on high, Linus sets out to unravel the mystery of his wife’s death, with the help of his friends, to devastating circumstances.

Linus’ rambling thoughts and asides provide black humor for the book, but it will be the unusual reader who will not find themselves buying into his rants and ideas as the action unfolds. Entertaining and different.

Brad Parks: The Girl Next Door Sunday, Jan 20 2013 

Parks’ third mystery featuring journalist Carter Ross is a filled with the wry humor of the protagonist that makes The Girl Next Door a delight to read.9781250013408

Set in the neighborhoods of northern New Jersey, Parks shows the dichotomy of the different areas he has Ross visit in his tenure on Newark’s Eagle-Examiner,  and the different attributes and customs that go along with each one.


Here’s Ross describing his personal attitude after years of experience : “As a newspaper reporter, I’m required to move in all strata of society. I get to observe human behavior everywhere, from the meanest housing projects to the gilded symphony hall. And what always strikes me is that when you strip away the superficial differences in clothing, setting, and dialect, groups of people everywhere are more or less the same . . . most of us are just trying to find a way to fit in.”

Reading the paper’s obituaries leads Ross to come across the death of Nancy Marino, a “girl next door” forties-something carrier for his own paper. When he decides to write a feature story about an everyday woman who dies too young, Ross naturally heads to her wake to meet her family and to hear the stories of this common woman.

So he’s more than surprised and quickly intrigued when one of Nancy’s sisters insists that the hit-and-run accident that claimed Nancy’s life was not an accident at all, but a cold-blooded murder. Adding to his interest is the appearance at the wake of his own newspapers publisher, the smarmy Gary Jackman, who refuses to give him an interview but has an arugment  with another man attending the wake that Ross overhears.

The reporter’s investigation reveals the never-married Nancy held down two jobs while caring for her elderly mother, who lived a few blocks away. Besides being a paper carrier, she worked part-time as a waitress at a local diner and was shop steward for her carrier’s union.

Ross digs into the case, convinced he’s on the right road to find Nancy’s murderer. He’ll get in trouble in far too many places at once, including with his boss and editor, who is his infrequent girlfriend, Tina Thompon. He’ll also become saddled with an intern who reads Emerson and Thoreau and is planning a thesis on Philip Roth, one of New Jersey’s hometown boys.

Parks’ creation is articulate and a pleasure to read; his characters are quirky and colorful. And best of all, his plotting twists and turns as it delves into the gritty world of some of the not-too nicest characters and neighborhoods of New Jersey. And some of those are the friends Carter Ross will depend on when he needs a helping hand.

Filled with action and unexpected turns, it’s difficult at one point to figure out how Ross will come out on top of this one. Keep reading.