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July 29 2017
The middle of summer and we're supposed to lying back in a hammock, waiting for a cool breeze, a cold drink in one hand, a mindlessly diverting book in the other, blissfully comatose. And are we? Well, some people may be. But between Korean missiles, a White House communications chief whose comunications are unsuitable for family ears, and a president who specializes in surprise, delivered in 140 characters, some of us can't turn off the news. No wonder most of the reviewers were reading books that were very far from mindlessly diverting. A lot of them were very good, however.
Barbara Fister was very happy with Kristen Lepionka's debut, THE LAST PLACE YOU LOOK, which she says builds on the feminist tradition of the pioneers of the hard-boiled female PI novel, but is thoroughly up to date. I plan to read it as soon as I can.
THE FORCE, by Don Winslow, is certainly no debut and its subject, police corruption, is as old as the hills. Nevertheless, Susan Hoover reports that Winslow knocks this one out of the park with his relentless depiction of the spread of corruption in a police force contaminated by the drugs cartels
Barbara Fister says that Peter Blauner is treading on dangerous ground with what appears to be a collection of familiar ideas in PROVING GROUND, but that happily he is a terrific writer who would be doing us a favour if he wrote less for television and more books. It's been over a decade since his last. The protagonist of PROVING GROUND suffers from PTSD, the result of his service in Iraq. The protagonist of Nuala Ellwood's MY SISTER'S BONES also suffers from the same condition, hers contracted as a war correspondent in Syria. It makes her a less than reliable narrator, of course. I could not put down the first two-thirds of this one; sadly the last third veers off in another direction, falls in love with a fashionable plot twist, and ends with a peculiar epilogue.
In an uncertain world, it's a good thing we have police procedurals to rely on. PROVING GROUND is one and Steve Burrows' A SHIMMER OF HUMMINGBIRDS, despite its cosy-sounding title, is another and a very good one too, says Caryn St Clair. Veteran novelist Donna Leon returns with the the 26th in the Guido Brunetti series, EARTHLY REMAINS. Jim Napier thinks that this may be the best one yet. It has been twenty-seven years since we last saw Margaret Maron's Sigrid Harald in action. She's back in what may be a series finale in TAKE OUT and PJ Coldren says she expected much from this and was not disappointed.
Two novels translated from the Swedish could not be more different from one another. THE UNIT, by Ninni Holmqvist, is a re-issue of a book that first appeared in 2006. It is a dystopia set in an alternate but very near future that takes a very particular view of which of its citizens deserves to live into old age. I thought it was both original and cooly disturbing. LEONA: THE DIE IS CAST, by Jenny Rogneby, is very far from cool. Cathy Downs thought it more of an extended complaint mounted to excuse some rather bad behaviour. Sara Paretsky returns with FALLOUT. VI is not in Chicago but Kansas this time and comes up against contamination from nuclear weapons and heavy-handed government bodies bent on suppressing information about them. Nicola Nixon is grateful to both author and character for keeping the faith despite the current political climate.
Several books this time are more concerned with character than with plot or ideas. Cathy Downs was particularly taken with MIDNIGHT AT THE BRIGHT IDEAS BOOKS STORE, by Matthew Sullivan, set in the kind of bookstore we all remember but which Amazon has effectively finished in most places. This is a mystery, but one built on a love of the characters and a love of language, Cathy observes. Gail Godwin's GRIEF COTTAGE is "a lovely, slow-moving gothic," says Lourdes Venard, set on the South Carolina shore. Not an ordinary ghost story, Lourdes concludes, but "something more complex - and wonderful." Hallie Ephon's YOU'LL NEVER KNOW, DEAR, was somewhat less successful, according to Caryn St Clair, because the solution to the mystery was not as well-concealed as it might have been, but still was enjoyable for the likeable and well-developed characters.
Finally, there's something about our affection for beloved authors and their characters who are dead and gone that inspires modern writers to try to resurrect them. Mick Finlay uses Sherlock Holmes as reference in ARROWOOD, where he is the object of some envy on the part of a working-class private investigator. "A Sherlock Holmes of the people: it's elementary," says Rebecca Nesvet, and a good thing too. Andrew Wilson's A TALENT FOR MURDER turns to Agatha Christie's famous disappearance to involve the author in a plot reminiscent of her twistiest work. Meredith Frazier says that though it is altogether improbable, it's a great premise and a fun read.
Our guest in the "Sixty Seconds With...spot today is Jenny Rogneby. Please drop by and see what she has to say.
Interested in British crime? So are our friends at CRIMEREVIEW and you can pay them a visit to see what they've been reading.
So there you have it for this week. We'll be back next month and we hope you will be too.
P.S. If you wish to submit a book for review, please check here before contacting us. Please note that we do not review self-published books.
Our mascot and masthead is Smokey the Cat. Smokey the cat went to the great playground in the sky on April 29, 2008, at 3:30 p.m. He was about 13 years old, had diabetes and only 11 teeth left. He is much happier now. He will remain as our masthead and mascot.
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