Archives for: March 2011


Archer Mayor: The Price of Malice (2009) ****

Archer Mayor: The Price of Malice (2009) ****

American police procedural.

Book # 20 with Joe Gunther, head of the Vermont Bureau of Investigation (VBI).

Joe’s new love interest Lyn is trying to find out what really happened to her father and brother. Joe found their boat in the hands of a known drug smuggler, years after the family thought the boat and the men were lost at sea. His VBI team also is working on the mysterious murder of a known pedophile. Nicely complex.

First book: Open Season (1988)

This is a mini-review from Mystery Memo # 107

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Here's what the Booklist review had to say:
The brutal murder of a suspected child predator in Brattleboro has Joe Gunther, the Vermont Bureau of Investigation’s top cop, and his team of detectives hopping, even though people who knew the victim think the town is better off without him. At the same time, Joe’s lady, Lyn Silva, is wrestling with the fact that her father and brother, Gloucester, Massachusetts, fishermen, may not have been lost to a storm at sea; they may have been involved in smuggling prescription drugs from Canada, and they may have been murdered (The Catch, 2008). Lyn dashes off to Maine and rattles the cages of some very dangerous men, and Joe finds himself torn between professional duty and Lyn’s safety. Joe’s longtime subordinates, detectives Sammie Martens and the abrasive Willy Kunkle, soldier on, but Joe’s absence takes a toll on them. As always, Mayor delivers rich characters, solid police procedural details, and a rich sense of place. A solid addition to a fine series.

posted by Sharon

Above Suspicion
by Lynda La Plante

British police procedural

Book # 1 with Anna Travis, a rookie homicide detective, in London, England

Description: Young detective Anna Travis has been assigned to her first murder case--and it couldn't be a more shocking, more horrific set of killings. Anna stumbles on a vital piece of information that links one man to the killings. A household name, a much-loved actor who is about to become an international movie star.


Steven Saylor: Roman Blood (2008, c1991) ***

Roman Blood
By Steven Saylor

***This is the first book in Saylor's Roma Sub Rosa series.***

In the unseasonable heat of a spring morning in 80 B.C., Gordianus the Finder is summoned to the house of Cicero, a young advocate staking his reputation on a case involving the savage murder of the wealthy, sybaritic Sextus Roscius. Charged with the murder is Sextus's son, greed being the apparent motive. The punishment, rooted deep in Roman tradition, is horrific beyond imagining.

The case becomes a political nightmare when Gordianus's investigation takes him through the city's raucous, pungent streets and deep into rural Umbria. Now, one man's fate may threaten the very leaders of Rome itself. (Product Description)

The book started off with promise and there were certainly large portions that were greatly intriguing and entertaining, but after about halfway through, Saylor lost his steam and the story fell apart for me. There could have easily been at least 50-100 pages shaved off the end third of the novel (Sulla's history) which was completely unnecessary, irrelevant to the plot and quite frankly, a bore and waste of time to read. And then the "twist" at the end was resolved so fast that it left me very unsatisfied.

On the other hand, I did enjoy the portrait Saylor depicted of ancient Rome and there were many parts to the story that were fascinating. I was able to glean bits and pieces of Roman politics and justice which is always interesting. I think I will try another couple of books in the series and see how I like them before giving up entirely.

By Emma Donoghue

Description: Jack is five and excited about is birthday. He lives with his Ma in Room, which has a locked door and a skylight, and measures eleven feet by eleven feet. He loves watching TV, and the cartoon characters he calls friends, but he know that nothing he sees on screen is truly real--only him, Ma and the things in Room. Until the day Ma admits that there's a world outside... Told in Jack's voice, Room is the story of a mother and son whose love lets them survive the impossible. Unsentimental and sometimes funny, devastating yet uplifting, Room is a novel like not other. (Book Description)

Posted by Shiela


New Book Releases for March: Mysteries

Check out the March New Book Releases: Mysteries.

Here's what I'll be tracking down:

Though Not Dead by Dana Stabenow

Book # 18 with Kate Shugak, a native Alaskan ex-DA investigator, who lives on a 160-acre homestead in a generic national Park in Alaska with her half-wolf, half-husky dog named Mutt

Description: Inheriting a homestead from her late uncle, a stunned Kate Shugak receives a cryptic letter from him imploring her to discover his father's fate, a mystery involving a priceless tribal artifact for which Kate is targeted by murderous attacks. NoveList

First book: A Cold Day for Murder

posted by Sharon

Let the Dead Lie
by Malla Nunn

South Africa police procedural / Independent investigator

Book # 2 with Emmanuel Cooper, a detective sergeant in 1950s South Africa

Description: A stunning novel about murder, power, and a dangerous South African underworld. Cooper works undercover surveillance on the seedy Durban docks, but when a young boy is brutally murdered he must elude the police to conduct his own investigation. He discovers an international tussle for the political soul of South Africa. NoveList

First book: A Beautiful Place to Die

## MBTB review of A Beautiful Place to Die


Denise Mina: Still Midnight (2010) ****

Denise Mina: Still Midnight (2010) ****

British police procedural

Book # 1 with DI Alexandra (Alex) Morrow in Glasgow

The case: a botched home invasion ends up with a teenage girl being shot and her elderly father kidnapped. We see the case from the point-of-view of the inept criminals as well as from Alex’s, who has been shunted to the side of the investigation until it looks like it’s almost too late.

This is a mini-review from Mystery Memo # 107

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Here's what the Library Journal review had to say:

When two Glasgow club bouncers set out to abduct a young man in order to make a quick buck, things go very wrong. The inexperienced criminals barge into the house of a Ugandan Muslim family, the Anwars. They accidentally shoot the beautiful teenage daughter in the hand and abduct her aging father, the owner of a small Glasgow grocery store. If DS Alex Morrow can figure out why the bungling thugs targeted this family, she may be able to save the old man's life. Meanwhile, she must find a way to get along with her new partner, the arrogant, credit-stealing DS Grant Bannerman while picking up the pieces of her marriage following the death of her young son.
VERDICT Mina (Slip of the Knife) is adept at capturing the rhythms of life in Glasgow among the down-and-out. She vividly portrays the squalor of the underworld while depicting even her bad guys in all of their human complexity, which gives her novels a rare grace. Recommended to fans of Ian Rankin and anyone who enjoys a good police procedural.

posted by Sharon

From the Dead
by Mark Billingham

British police procedural

Book # 9 with DI Tom Thorne, London, England

Description: When Donna Langford receives a very recent photo of her ex-husband in the post, she gets the shock of her life. Because she's just spent ten years in prison for organising his murder. When her daughter goes missing, Donna believes there can only be one man responsible and hires Anna Carpenter, a determined young private investigator, to find him. DI Tom Thorne worked on the Alan Langford case, so when Carpenter brings the photo to him, he refuses to believe that the man whose body was found in a burned-out car ten years before can still be alive....Fantastic Fiction

First book: Sleepyhead


Mysteries by and about women

In honour of International Women's Day tomorrow March 8, here are some ideas for finding mysteries by and about women:

* One of my favourite mystery categories is the private investigator. Use the online catalogue keyword (women private investigators) or subject search:
For example,
Click here to see the results using the subject Women private investigators

Poking through this list, I came across the following book when I clicked on Women private investigators - British Columbia - Fiction:

Ragged Chain : a mystery by Vivian Meyer

Summary: When fledgling private investigator Abby Faria heads to Peregrine Island in BC's magnificent Desolation Sound for a well-deserved vacation break, she finds herself in the midst of another investigation when logging company magnate Jack Armstrong is found murdered. Abby's nosing around in the eco-politics of the island soon brings her into the midst of a whole cast of curious locals with both motive and opportunity to murder the unpopular Armstrong. Abby's penchant for mixing it up with questionable characters and ignoring legal niceties in the process soon gets her into more trouble than she bargained for . . .

First book: The Bottom Bracket

** More Female Private Investigators:
MBTB review of Hardball by Sara Paretsky (includes my list of favourite fictional female private investigators)

The Murder by the Book themed reading list Female Private Investigators, prepared in 2005. Click here for the link

posted by Sharon

Fever Dream
by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child


Book # 10 with Aloysius Pendergast, an FBI special agent

Description: Special Agent Pendergast faces his most personal case yet--the murder of his wife, Helen. NoveList

First book: Relic


Ian Hamilton: The Water Rat of Wanchai (2011) *** ½

Ian Hamilton: The Water Rat of Wanchai (2011) *** ½

Book # 1 with Ava Lee, a young Chinese-Canadian forensic accountant who specializes in recovering massive debts.
Ava is based in Toronto, but this investigation takes her to many world-wide locations, including Bangkok and Guyana.

MBTB review: Forensic accountant Ava Lee is on the trail of two partners in a seafood company that appear to have deliberately defrauded a young Hong Kong businessman. She travels the world to track down the two men – one in Bangkok and the more influential man in Guyana.

Author Ian Hamilton includes detailed descriptions of the places Ava travels to. There is enough information on Guyana to know I don’t want to visit there any time soon. The story has a good flow and Hamilton manages to make the financial aspects of Ava's job understandable even to me.

The first half is a little slow, but I'll put it down to character building. I like to travel, so the description of what Ava packed, and the various airports and hotels and restaurants she went to were interesting to me – literally setting the scene. Once Ava arrived in Guyana, I was pulled into the story. I enjoyed the action as Ava used both her brain and her martial arts skills to get out of several dangerous situations and yet not give up on her main goal - getting the money back for her client.

I'll be watching for the second book: The Disciple of Las Vegas, coming soon.

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Here's what other reviewers had to say:
National Post review by Kevin Chong:
. . . . the second half of the book ramps up both the pacing and the kung-fu fighting. A couple of vicious altercations, a kidnapping and a corrupt Guyanese police chief give the story the spring it lacks early on. All of this bodes well for the next instalment of Ava Lee’s accounting adventures, due out this summer.
To read Kevin Chong's full review for the National Post, click here.

Globe & Mail review by Margaret Cannon:
. . . The Water Rat of Wanchai is the first book in what Anansi intends as a new mystery imprint called Spiderline. If the other novels are half as good as this debut by Ian Hamilton, then readers are going to celebrate. Hamilton, a nationally known journalist and non-fiction author, has created a marvellous character in Ava Lee, a Toronto forensic accountant.
To read Margaret Cannon's full review for the Globe & Mail, click here and go to the second review in the list.

posted by Sharon

Borrowed Light
by Graham Hurley

British police procedural

Book # 11 in the series with DI Joe Faraday and former police officer Paul Winter in Portsmouth, England

Description: . . . DI Joe Faraday, badly injured on holiday in the Middle East, is convalescing in the UK. Four deaths in a suspicious farmhouse fire drag him back to work before he's truly fit. His partner, meanwhile, wants to adopt a young Palestinian child who has been badly burned in the hellhole of Gaza. Both privately and professionally, Faraday is under threat.
Ex-cop Paul Winter is still Bazza Mackenzie's trusted lieutenant. But his growing doubts about his new life alongside Pompey's top criminal deepen further when Bazza orders him to retrieve some missing cocaine . . . whatever the cost. (from book jacket)

First book: Turnstone (2000)

## Related post: MBTB review of No Lovelier Death # 9
includes full series list


Ted Dekker: The BoneMan's Daughters (2009) ***

BoneMan’s Daughters
By Ted Dekker

A Texas serial killer called BoneMan is on the loose, choosing young girls as his prey, His signature: myriad broken bones that torture and kill - but never puncture. Military intelligence officer Ryan Evans is married to his work; so much so that his wife and daughter have written him out of their lives. Sent to Fallujah and captured by insurgents, he is asked to kill children not unlike his own. The method: a meticulous, excruciating death by broken bones that his captor has forced him to learn. Returning home after the ordeal, a new crisis awaits. A serial killer is on the loose, and his method of killing is the same. Ryan becomes a prime suspect, which isn't even the worst of his problems: Ryan's daughter is BoneMan's latest desire. (Product Description)

MBTB review: Very original, though highly unlikely serial killer/ thriller novel. There were aspects of this book that intrigued me, but my overall impression is still a little bit reserved. For a decorated and highly trained military officer, Evans’ actions were quite elementary and emotional. The issues with his family were not developed which made some of the characters hard to empathize with. But the aspect that bothered me the most was that the mind, history and motivations of the perpetrator was very underdeveloped which left the reader wondering what really happened in the killer’s past that made him to the things he did. Sure, there were subtle hints at his childhood but not enough to buy into the monster he eventually became.

That being said, I must admit the plot was very unpredictable and there was never a dull moment. Dekker attempted to send a political message with part of his novel which I thought was an interesting way to look at the cost of war and collateral damage (but this storyline abruptly ended as well). Despite its many shortcomings, it was an entertaining and suspenseful read. This was my first go at Ted Dekker and I think I will try more of his works.

Note: not for the faint of heart.

Posted by Shiela