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Archives for: August 2011

08/29/11

Jefferson Bass: The Bone Thief (2010) ****

The Bone Thief
By Jefferson Bass

This is the fifth installment of the Body Farm novels that the duo Dr. Bill Bass (a real life world renowned forensic anthropologist who founded the Body Farm in Tennessee) and Jon Jefferson (veteran writer) have published. The best way to describe the Body Farm novels is to compare them to my favorite crime/drama television shows: CSI meets Criminal Minds meets Bones all rolled into one satisfying and unpredictable read. The Bone Thief was no exception.

When Dr. Bill Brockton is called upon to take a DNA sample from an exhumed body to determine paternity, he discovers that fundamental body parts were cleanly removed after death. The puzzle becomes even more convoluted when Brockton discovers a very profitable and thriving black market selling human body parts from victims both dead and still living.

The one thing about this novel is that you absolutely have to read the book that comes just before it (Bones of Betrayal) to be able to follow all of the characters storylines.

What I love about these books are the pertinent forensic facts—some of which are pretty cutting edge and disturbingly detailed—that the reader learns as the investigation unfolds. It’s almost like reading a nonfiction book with the added benefit of a really good mystery along the way. I will definitely be looking out for the next title "The Bone Yard" in the series.

To read a review of the first four books in the series, click here

Posted by Shiela


08/24/11

The Year's Best Crime Novels from Booklist

Booklist's Best Crime Novels of 2011 are taken from all books reviewed in the review magazine Booklist between May 2010 and April 2011. Click on the link to read Bill Ott's essay about the best crime novels of the year.

Sorry I missing this list when it was published on May 1, but I find these lists such a good source of great reading, I thought it was worth blogging about.

Here's the first half - watch for the second half (Top 10 Best First Crime Novels, coming soon)

Top 10

The Anniversary Man. By R. J. Ellory (2010)

NYPD Detective Ray Irving—overworked, underpaid, and absolutely dedicated to his job—risks his sense of ethics and, ultimately, his life to track down a serial killer who is imitating the crimes of some of the worst monsters in history. Entirely free of formula, Ellory’s breakthrough procedural should give him the kind of acclaim in the U.S. that he enjoys in his native Britain.
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Bury Your Dead. By Louis Penny (2010)

Book # 6 with Armand Gamache, Chief Inspector of the Sûreté du Québec, in the village of Three Pines, in southern Quebec

Penny’s sixth Armande Gamache novel is her best yet, a true tour de force of storytelling. Juggling three freestanding but subtly intertwined stories, Penny moves seamlessly from present to past as Gamache, the chief inspector of the Sûreté du Quebec, investigates a murder in Quebec City, tries to determine if he jailed the wrong man in an earlier case, and struggles with his memories of a third case that went horribly wrong. Penny hits every note perfectly in what is one of the most elaborately constructed mysteries in years.

First book: Still Life

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Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter. By Tom Franklin
(2010)

Silas and Larry, two poor kids in 1970s Mississippi, were close until they drifted apart after Larry’s date disappeared one night and never returned. Now, 20 years later, Silas is the new town constable, and another girl disappears in similar circumstances. Edgar winner Franklin delivers luminous prose and a cast of unforgettable characters in this moody, masterful mix of crime and literary fiction.
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Gone. By Mo Hayder (2011)

Book # 5 with Jack Caffery, a troubled police detective in London, England

In this fifth riveting entry in Hayder’s series starring haunted homicide detective Jack Caffery, the disappearance of an 11-year-old girl leaves police playing catch-up against an adversary who seems to anticipate all their moves. The meticulously crafted plot is heightened by Hayder’s skillful evocation of mood in this utterly gripping thriller.

First book: Birdman
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* * *

Painted Ladies. By Robert B. Parker (2010)

Book # 38 with Spenser, an ex-boxer, ex-state cop turned private eye, in Boston, Massachusetts

Are we honoring the late Parker’s career here or is this really one of his best books in its own right? Well, both. His penultimate Spenser novel captures all the charm of the landmark series. The iconic Boston PI can still nail a person’s foibles on first meeting, still whip up a gourmet meal in a few minutes, still dispatch the thugs who haunt his office and his home, and still do it all while maintaining a fierce love of Susan Silverman and English poetry. Parker was one of the first to show us that a hard-boiled hero doesn’t have to frown all the time, and we’ve been smiling along with Spenser ever since.

First book: The Godwulf Manuscript
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***

The Snowman. By Jo Nesbø. Tr. by Don Bartlett (2011)

Book # 4 with Harry Hole, a police detective in Oslo, Norway

Norway’s maverick detective Harry Hole is back in this fourth installment of Nesbo’s uniformly outstanding series. A new case puts Harry on the track of another serial killer, and once again his obsessive approach to crime-solving puts him at odds with his peers. Nesbo layers the suspense skillfully, deftly mixing scenes from the investigation with glimpses into Harry’s always compelling personal life. With the conclusion of Henning Mankell’s Kurt Wallander series, the Harry Hole novels now assume the top spot in the Scandinavian crime-fiction universe.

First book: The Redbreast
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***

Spiral. By Paul McEuen (2011)

Cornell physicist McEuen, writing his first novel in his “spare time,” may have created the most engrossing thriller of the year. With the murder of an 85-year-old physicist, it’s left to one of his colleagues, the victim’s granddaughter, and her nine-year-old son to thwart a complex scheme to launch the “most devastating terrorist attack in human history.” McEuen offers lucid disquisitions on science; posits that “synthetic biology” will surpass silicon microelectronics as the next big technological wave; and, remarkably, he makes these ideas accessible to the average thriller fan.

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***

Started Early, Took My Dog. By Kate Atkinson (2011)

Book # 4 with Jackson Brodie, an ex-cop, ex-husband, and private investigator, in the UK

In the latest entry in Atkinson’s brilliant Jackson Brodie series, the semiretired detective is touring abbeys in northern England, but soon enough he becomes involved in several interrelated cases, one of which concerns a police detective who has rescued a child from a prostitute by paying cash for her. Her odyssey as a new parent, relayed with tenderness and wry wit, must be one of the grandest love affairs in crime fiction. For its singular melding of radiant humor and dark deeds, this is must-reading for fans of literary crime fiction.

First book: Case Histories
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***

The Terrorist. By Peter Steiner (2010)

Book # 3 with Louis Morgon, a Middle East policy expert dismissed from the CIA, taking refuge in France

American expat Louis Morgon’s retirement in a Loire Valley village is upset by cancer and by the life he left decades before. The former CIA agent has helped a young Algerian boy get a scholarship, but now the boy has been deposited in a secret prison. Weakened by cancer, Louis must uncover valuable information about al-Qaeda that he can trade for the boy’s release. The Terrorist is a deeply human story of a man in the last years of his life, who, unexpectedly, has again found love but who is sucked back into a cynical, dangerous milieu he abhors. An espionage gem with strong echoes of Greene and le Carré.

First book: A French Country Murder

***

The Troubled Man. By Henning Mankell. Tr. by Laurie Thompson (2011)

Book # 10 with Kurt Wallander, an inspector in Ystad, Sweden

The final volume in Mankell’s Kurt Wallander series represents a landmark moment in the genre. As Wallander strives to find his daughter-in-law’s disappeared father, he launches another, more poignant investigation into his own past. This is a deeply melancholy novel, but Mankell, sweeping gracefully between reflections on international politics and meditations on the inevitable arc of human life, never lets his story become engulfed by darkness. Always a reticent man, Wallander shows an intensity of emotion here, a last gasp of felt life, which is both moving and oddly inspiring.

First book: Faceless Killers

***
series descriptions from Stop, You're Killing Me!

posted by Sharon


WHAT I'M READING NOW:

Hell is Empty
by Craig Johnson

Book # 7 with Walt Longmire, veteran sheriff in Absaroka County, Wyoming

Summary: Well-read and world-weary, Sheriff Walt Longmire has been maintaining order in Wyoming's Absaroka County for more than 30 years, but in this riveting seventh outing, he is pushed to his limits as he braves a frozen inferno to capture an escaped murderer.NoveList

First book: The Cold Dish


08/15/11

S. J. Bolton: Now You See Me (2011) ****

Now You See Me
By S. J. Bolton

One night after interviewing a reluctant witness at a London apartment complex, Lacey Flint, a young detective constable, stumbles onto a woman brutally stabbed just moments before in the building’s darkened parking lot. Within twenty-four hours a reporter receives an anonymous letter that points out alarming similarities between the murder and Jack the Ripper’s first murder—a letter that calls out Lacey by name. If it’s real, and they have a killer bent on re-creating London’s bloody past, history shows they have just five days until the next attempt.

No one believes the connections are anything more than a sadistic killer’s game, not even Lacey, whom the killer seems to be taunting specifically. However, as they investigate the details of the case start reminding her more and more of a part of her past she’d rather keep hidden. And the only way to do that is to catch the killer herself. (Book Description taken from Amazon)

MBTB review: It was the “big reveal” at the end of the book that just blew me away which resulted in this better than average police procedural to earn the extra star. The ending was so completely unpredictable (and kind of mind blowing) that it made the book for me. I read the entire thing being very unsure of what was going on and trying to piece together the portions that I've been fed, but the resolution came out of nowhere. Kudos to Bolton.

I love reading about the elusive Jack the Ripper and I found myself quite enjoying the lore, both fact and fiction which Bolton explored throughout the investigation (you can tell she did her research). I also loved how she gave her readers a brief synopsis of all of the Ripper theories out there at the end of the novel and explained what she perceived to be a flaw in each of the arguments. Her own hypothesis proved to be quite interesting…

Posted by Shiela


08/10/11

Sara J. Henry: Learning to Swim (2011) *****


Sara J. Henry: Learning to Swim (2011) *****

Summary: Witnessing a small boy being thrown into the middle of Lake Champlain, Troy Chance rescues the child only to discover that he had been kidnapped and is at the center of a bizarre and violent plot.

MBTB review:

Just when I think I'm being too stingy with my star ratings, along comes a book that I have no hesitation about giving 5 stars to.

An enthralling writing style, an interesting narrative voice, and a good character in Troy Chance.

For fun, check out Sara J. Henry's web page with a link to her blog.

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Here's what Library Journal had to say:

Freelance writer Troy Chance sees a child thrown from a ferry and jumps into the water to save him. Haunted by a past experience with an abandoned child, she decides to be sure that his parents weren't responsible before she notifies the police. She travels to Canada to meet with Paul's divorced father and realizes that she has become more attached to the child than she wanted to be. Accepting an invitation to stay with the family for a few days while Paul recovers from the trauma of his kidnapping, Troy finds herself falling for his father. At the same time, she is unable to leave the investigation in the hands of the police, still fearing that one of the parents could have been involved.
Verdict: Fans of both mystery and romantic suspense will welcome this promising new author; the unsettled ending hints at a follow-up mystery.

posted by Sharon


WHAT I'M READING NOW:

Jericho Cay
by Kathryn R. Wall

Book # 11 with Bay Tanner, a widowed financial consultant, in Hilton Head, South Carolina

Summary: While restoring her Hilton Head home after a brush with a hurricane, P.I. Bay Tanner must unravel a suspicious death and even more suspicious disappearances from a secluded private island. NoveList

First book: In for a Penny

series description from Stop, You're Killing Me!


08/02/11

Mystery Beach Reads

Here's the link to the Murder by the Book reading list
Death Takes a Holiday: Beach Reads and More

I like Mystery Beach Reads that actually take place at the beach, like Douglas Corleone's new series with Kevin Corvelli, a Manhattan criminal defense lawyer who moves to Honolulu, Hawaii


One Man's Paradise # 1
Summary: After his reputation is destroyed by a botched murder case, cutthroat defense lawyer Kevin Corvelli flees to Hawaii, where he meets a law student who has been wrongly accused of killing his ex-girlfriend.
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Night on Fire # 2
Summary: Kevin Corvelli--a hot shot New York defense attorney who packed up his bags and hung his shingle in Hawaii to dodge the spotlight--is deep in his Mai Tais at a resort when an argument erupts down the bar. It's a pair of newlyweds, married that day. And since Corvelli doesn't do divorces, he all but dismisses the argument. That's at least until the fire breaks out later that night, and he barely escapes his hotel room. Most weren't so lucky, including the new husband. His wife Erin becomes not only the prime suspect but Corvelli's newest client, and she has a lot working against her, like motive and opportunity, not to mention a history of starting fires. (publisher's description)

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I came across the following web page while browsing for Beach Reads:
Top Books to Read at the Beach
Check out their Mystery Recommendations

series description from Stop, You're Killing Me!

posted by Sharon


WHAT I'M READING NOW:

Erasing Memory
by Scott Thornley

Book # 1 with senior police detective MacNeice, in the fictional Ontario city of Dundurn

Summary: MacNeice is returning from a pilgrimage to his wife's grave when he's called to a crime scene of singular and disturbing beauty. A young woman in evening dress lies gracefully posed on the floor of a pristine summer cottage so that the finger of one hand regularly interrupts the needle arm of a phonograph playing the Schubert Piano Trio. The only visible mark on her is the bruise under her chin, which MacNeice recognizes: it is the mark that distinguishes dedicated violinists, the same mark that once graced his wife. The murder is both ingenious and horrific, and soon entangles MacNeice and his team in Eastern Europe's ancient grievances . . . .
Fantastic Fiction