Category Archives: Detective/Mystery

A Lovely Way to Burn – Louise Welsh

This is an interesting mix between a Plague story and a murder mystery.  Set in London, people are getting sick with what has been dubbed ‘The Sweats.’  People respond with a mix of paranoia and apathy.  You will always have the group that raids the grocery stores for food and water.  You will also have the group who stay at work believing the panic to be nothing more than a craze.  There is also the set that will camp out at the pub reveling in the fact that maybe the bar owner died but that just means you won’t have to pay your tab.  This all happens in ‘A Lovely Way to Burn’ but its a backdrop.  Stevie is young, beautiful, and works as a  Shopping Network Presenter.  She is the person who gets equally wildly excited about selling you Christmas Lights, a cookware set, or jewelry.  Her initial desire was to become a journalist but she fell into this job and got really comfortable.  When her handsome, materialistic, doctor boyfriend doesn’t return her phone calls she decides he’s moved on.  She works herself up to a tizzy, goes to pick up her stuff, and finds him dead in his bed.  At first she believes it was ‘The Sweats,’ everyone is getting it, but then his co-workers, and the family she never met, ask if it could be suicide.  She’d only been dating him for a few months so she doesn’t really know.  Then she finds he left her his computer with strict instructions it can only be given to one person, the only doctor he trusted.  With this new info his cause of death becomes questionable.

Amongst people dying of a genuine plague Stevie sets out on the mystery of what happened to her boyfriend.  Stevie is immune.  She got sick but is one of the few who got better.  What does she decide to do with her immunity?  Does she help people to find a cure?  Does she seek safety to ride this illness out? No.  Stevie takes foolish risks driving around London with no thought to finding food, shelter, or rationing gas.  This fairly shallow character decides amongst a dying city she is going to find out what happened to her boyfriend.  Is it because she loved him and is heartbroken?  Is it because she believes in what he was doing?  No.  Stevie knows very little about the man she was dating.  She knew he liked fancy restaurants, nice cars, and they had a good time together.  She didn’t know him well enough to care to meet his friends or find out much about what he did.  There is nothing necessarily wrong with this.  I don’t expect utter devotion to someone you’ve only been casually dating, but I also don’t comprehend risking your life, at the end of the world, to find out why they were killed when you just weren’t that invested.  Many characters ask her why she is bothering to find out what happened to him when the entire city is dying.   I wholeheartedly agree with them.

Stevie and the rest of the characters in the book are shallow and not particularly likable.  I had a hard time getting into the book.  Towards the end it got better.  That said, I could not figure out why we were wasting time on the mystery of Simon’s death when the plague has come to town.  I kept looking for what tied the story together.  It felt like the book couldn’t decide what it wanted to be.  It is part of a series, however, and I want to see where book two goes.  The mystery portion gets completed, so I believe book two must be about the devastation reaped by plague.  I haven’t decided if I will read book two, but I do think it must be better.  Stevie will have to figure out survival, and she isn’t nearly as shallow at the end of the book.  So, while not very prudent, she has a chance at developing into a character of substance.  Maybe that will be the moral of the series – even the most frivolous have a shot if life challenges them and they choose to rise to the occasion.

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Book Review: Hallowe’en Party – Agatha Christie

~ HALLOWEEN APPROVED ~

(This book, or part of it, is set on Halloween)

It is Autumn, this week there have been storm clouds in the sky and wind pulling leaves off branches.  I am preparing for Halloween and hopefully a horde of trick or treaters who will be  knocking on doors in the near future.  In my preparation, I was also listening to Christie’s ‘Hallowe’en Party.’  It is a book I have not read by an author I consider an old friend – even if I never met her.  Agatha Christie and her beloved Belgian Hercule Poirot are special to me.  I watched the series with Hugh Fraser as Hastings and David Suchet as Poirot with my family as a child. Recently, I watched several with my father and they withstood the test of time.  It was with joy I found out the narration was done by Hugh Fraser heightening a sense of nostalgia for me and I burrowed down into blankets and dogs to enjoy this mystery.

Hercule Poirot is older now, at the end of his career, but he still seeks justice with a well-groomed mustache and patent leather shoes.  At the request of his friend the famous murder mystery writer, Ariadne Oliver, he has come to help solve the death of a young girl.  Ariadne was invited to her friend’s house for a Halloween Party.  Amidst the broom decoration, witches telling young girls fortunes, bobbing for apples, and the snapdragon a girl is found drowned.  Not in a mundane fashion either, she was found with her head floating in the tub used for bobbing for apples.  No one can think why someone would want her dead.  She wasn’t delightful, in fact she was known to seek attention by lying, but she wasn’t what one would consider special.  Ariadne heard the young girl boasting of having seen a murder to her friends, but when no one believed her she flounced off in a huff.  It wasn’t until the party was over anyone noticed her disappearance.  Ariadne, noticing something more sinister, insists Poirot come and use his skills to find out what is really happening in this quiet village.

Christie’s writing is as enjoyable as ever.  Her humor in these delicate murder mysteries is part of what I think made her stories unique and loved.  She never skimped on creating real whole characters.  ‘Hallowe’en Party’ is not long but it is packed with a good mystery, and commentary on the times it was written.  This was published in 1969 and while it still holds the atmosphere of a quiet English village you can feel Christie seeing the changes in England as she writes about it, including the changing opinions on children, accountability, and justice.  Much is said about how making “morally right” decisions can have larger, and in Christie’s view more negative, impacts on children and society.

The Halloween party is perfect.  You get a lot of discussion about village witches, the difference between pumpkins and vegetable marrows, young girls seeing their future husbands in mirrors, and a Snapdragon.  I had no idea what a Snapdragon is.  For your information  ‘Snapdragon’ is a Victorian parlour game where raisins are put in a shallow bowl filled with brandy.  The Brandy is lit and children try to grab the “snapping” raisins from the bowl.  It sounds a touch dangerous to me but it definitely fits as a fun Halloween game (even if it usually took place at Christmas time).

Small town politics and gossip, as is tradition, help Christie’s characters find their murderer.  I loved this book.  It will definitely be something I reread/relisten to around Halloween.  It is the perfect length at 336 pages or about six hours listening time.  It will get you ready for a Halloween party of your own…

*This is on sale for $1.99 on Amazon starting 10-19-15*


Book Review: The Wailing Wind – Tony Hillerman

~ HALLOWEEN APPROVED ~

( This book, or part of it, is set on Halloween )

Deputy Bernadette Manuelito of the Navajo Tribal Police gets called out on a last-minute call to check out an abandoned car.  She arrives at the scene to find what looks like a man sleeping off a night of drinking.  The dead man, however, doesn’t rouse.   Everything points to natural causes, there is no obvious cause of death, and she didn’t look hard at the scene until the gun shot was found by the EMT.  The murder of this man, Doherty, and an old case Joe Leaphorn worked years ago seem to be related.  It is tied to the legend of The Wailing Woman, the lost treasure of The Golden Calf, and the Halloween night years ago that Wiley Denton shot the con man McKay.

Tony Hillerman’s Navajo Mysteries with Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn are infamous.  The legendary Joe Leaphorn has been solving cases in the Four Corners for years.  Hillerman’s Navajo Tribal Police Lieutenant has retired but it hasn’t stopped his curiosity.  He reaches out to Sgt. Jim Chee when he hears about the murder of Doherty.  He wants to know if it has any relation to his previous case where Wiley Denton shot a con man trying to sell him the location ‘The Golden Calf.’  The motivations aren’t obvious, but maps are found at Doherty’s murder site along with an old tin of placer gold.  Everything from the old case gets turned over, including Denton’s missing wife, who was supposed to go to a lunch with her friends the day of the murder.  She never showed up and never came home. People thought she ran off.  She was too young and too pretty for Denton.  She was believed to be in league with McKay because she introduced him to her husband.  No one, however, who knew her believed it to be true and neither did her husband.   Denton, in fact, hires Leaphorn during this book to look into her missing persons case.   He never stopped looking for her.  Leaphorn can’t shake the feeling this has something to do with the police report of three kids on that Halloween night.  They said they heard a woman crying amongst the old army bunkers at Fort Wingate.  It was Halloween, however, and the kids were scared.  By the end of the night two of the kids were convinced they heard “La Llorana”/the wailing woman, another one was sure it was a Skinwalker, and the last thought it was vampire.  It got dismissed as nothing.  Leaphorn isn’t so sure.

I read all of Hillerman’s books several years ago.  In fact, I remember listening to some of them when I was a kid  back when audio books were books-on-tape.  My family was traveling cross-country and we would stop at the Cracker Barrel’s, trading one Hillerman book-on-tape out for another.  Leaphorn and Chee made it so we could drive fourteen hour days and not commit murder.  Enough nostalgia.  The point is I read them awhile ago and forgot how good they are.  I reread this mainly because it’s Autumn and Halloween is coming.  I wanted to indulge in the murder set on October 31.  I wasn’t disappointed.  I got to rediscover a favorite author and series.  Hillerman captures the cultural intricacies and beauty of the American Southwest.  His writing is beautiful in a sparse way that reflects the scenery of the area.

Hillerman has a wonderful grasp not only of the Navajo culture in the Four Corners area but also the Zuni, Hopi, Hispanic and belagaana/caucasian cultures living there.  He grew up in the southwest.   It is how, along with research, he obtained the information contained in his stories. He has  received the Navajo Tribes Special Friend Award and Center for the American Indian Ambassador Award for bringing attention to Native American culture and concerns.  I recommend you read Hillerman’s books if you enjoy mysteries or if you have any interest in the American West.  They are contemporary Westerns.  If you are looking for where to start, the first of the Navajo Mysteries is ‘The Blessing Way.’


Knots and Crosses – Ian Rankin

This could have been so much more.  The concept or story is fantastic.  I wanted to like it.  I started out liking it.  Unfortunately, as the story went on I noticed where it should have been amazing and wasn’t.  ‘Knots and Crosses’ wasn’t bad, but it fell far short of its potential.  This means it will probably be made into a much better movie.  There is a solid mystery set in Edinburgh here.  It has some true twists and interesting characters.  Who doesn’t like a main character whose father and brother are legitimate magicians while he’s a hardened cop with the dysfunctional family and divorce to prove it.

Inspector Rebus became a cop after a disgraceful exit from the SIS.  Cue the intrigue.  His past only gets released in small pieces until close to the end.  It ties to a truly disturbed serial killer taking young girls.  No one can determine how the murders are connected.  Rebus’s boss is an irritant, there are real family issues, and there is a work related love interest.  None of which gets explored well enough.  Everything is connected but the real question is how the killer is connected to Rebus, and why he keeps getting notes delivered by hand to his house taunting him.  They all include either knots or crosses.  That should mean something to him…

This was not executed well.  The writing isn’t poor but characters are stereotypes.  You could place them in any police mystery.  Nothing makes them distinctive.  They fall for the same traps every stereotypical character falls for.  It made me angry because the bones of the story are good.  Not everyone can come up with a story worth reading and when cardboard characters clutter it … well, it’s a shame.  The other issue is lack of details.  It felt like Rankin was going from plot point to plot point rather than reveling in the content or paying attention to what he was writing in the moment.  No scene felt like something you could immerse yourself in.

I haven’t decided to read or not read the next book.  I know a first book can be difficult.  Maybe Rankin hits his stride as the series continues.  I have no issue with pulp.  In fact I enjoy it a lot, but this was hard for me.  Michael Page narrated the audiobook I listened to. Parts worked but it baffled me why a mystery set in Scotland was read by an Englishman.  Michael Page is good.  He differentiates his characters well but his voice is distinctive.  You either like him or you don’t but I don’t think he was a good match for Rankin’s work.   I will probably give the second book a chance based on Rankin’s core story but if I do I will read it rather than listen to it.


Foxglove Summer – Ben Aaronovitch

Foxglove Summer (Peter Grant, #5)

After a painful betrayal in Broken Homes Peter Grant is focused on getting through the day.  He is still in the process of being debriefed for three separate Formaturgical (magic related) cases and sees no end in sight since the investigations were complete disasters.  One, specifically, ended his involvement in it by being tasered in the back by a good friend and colleague.  As a result, he spends his time practicing both normal police procedure techniques as well as those formers Nightingale has been teaching him for the not so mundane magical confrontations. When two young girls go missing Nightingale sends him to the country to find out what he can do.  The Folly has a responsibility in cases of child abduction.  Apparently, children are used frequently in the practice of unethical magic.  So, it’s off to the country for our London Constable to rustle up any hedgewitches and the like.  Nightingale says it will do him good to go to the country and take his mind off things.  In the tradition of Peter’s wit he can’t help but think, “because nothing cheers me up like a good child abduction…”

How I’ve missed Aaronovitch’s characters.  I will not lie, I wanted some resolution or at least information regarding Leslie.  She abruptly stopped working with the Folly and is nowhere to found.  Aaronovitch placing Peter in the country for this book very soundly put a stop to this kind of thinking.  This is an entirely separate case.  It provides no satisfaction or progress towards the case with the Faceless Man who has caused vexation and suffering since ‘Midnight Riot.’  That said I still enjoyed this book and every once in a while Leslie Mai texts Peter to let him know she hasn’t forgotten him and that he is in her thoughts.

Peter, Londoner through and through, gets some help from the River Beverly Brook.  It’s a good thing because he doesn’t know the first thing about the country, and the country isn’t sure how to take him.  One of my favorite lines is when a group of white boys are staring him down and Peter thinks, “The hard thing about being a racist in the country is you don’t get a lot of practice.”  It made me laugh.  His diversity both of being black and magical cause many moments of humor.  Nightingale sent Beverly as support and she is cathartic for Peter.  She helps him to express his anger and process his emotions regarding the mess at Sky Garden.  While he can not be a temperamental goddess that will bring thunder and lightning he also can’t lock it away and pretend it didn’t happen.  Her aid  in the investigation strengthens their friendship and provides some other benefits as well.

Peter also gets to meet an old colleague of Nightingale’s who fought with him at Ettisberg during World War II.  The elderly gentleman is a kind soul who broke his staff after Ettisberg from a broken heart.  The information he provides helps Peter see a much larger magical community that between he, Professor Walid, the Rivers, and the Fey could develop into a revitalized magical community.

The key story, however, is about the missing eleven year old girls.   Parents awake to their children missing, and after it was confirmed they were not sleeping over at another childs house, West Mercia Police gets overrun with reporters.  Peter is there to ensure no magical problems are to blame, but there are magical problems that include very angry and dangerous unicorns.  One of whom was a good friend to the missing girls by the name of Princess Luna.  Don’t let the name fool you, she might sound like a kind, rainbow grazing beast but these unicorns prefer meat and goring Peter if he gives them the opportunity.  Peter finds the girls but where were they?  One of them seems to have her own magical gifts and her friend is convinced she isn’t who she says she is.  Enter the question of changelings.

‘Foxglove Summer’ is wonderful.  This is good urban fantasy mixed with police drama.  If you have not read any of the series start with ‘Midnight Riot.’  I’ve never been disappointed by Aaronvitch.  He has a capability of taking magic and diversity and being able to blend it with an Alternate London that feels natural.  Many have compared The Rivers of London to the Dresden series.  I don’t find it that similar, but it is urban fantasy and it is a magical police procedural book.  I recommend this to people looking for a non young adult version of urban fantasy who like their books with sarcasm and a bit of dry wit.  Kobna Holdbrook-Smith narrates the audible series.  He does a fantastic job.  I prefer to listen to this series rather than read it because of his talent.  I encourage you to pick up either the book or the audible version.  Fans of the series will not be disappointed and I am confident the rest of you are just fans in waiting.


Atlanta Burns – Chuck Wendig

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Wendig can craft a wonderful sentence and transport you to his settings. They may be broken and unhappy settings, but you can see, smell and taste them.  By all accounts I enjoyed this book.  It’s a great story of a victimized white-trash girl making good and turning herself into a teenage, real-life superhero, helping not only herself, but other disenfranchised students at her school.  My concern is not with the writing of this book but it’s research.

A quarter of the way through Atlanta buys a pack of “cheap”cigarettes.  Wendig chose American Spirits and talks about the Native American picture on the front of the pack. I can see why the brand appealed to him.  It fits a gritty noir vibe Wendig goes for.  The problem with this is American Spirits aren’t cheap. They are an expensive brand because they are made on Reservation land and don’t contain the additives other cigarettes do. I know this not because I did research, but because if you spent time with the people Atlanta would you know it. If you have spent any time around smokers you know this.   Atlanta would definitely know this.  This simple error shocked me out of the story. It made me think that Wendig didn’t know what he’s talking about. If he gets this small stuff wrong it will alienate readers who grew up in an environment like the one Wendig focuses on in the book.

As a reader, I tend to separate the author from their books. As long as it rings true I don’t care. I don’t check on the authors credibility.  I tried to ignore the error and write it of as a stylistic choice, but I kept seeing other small errors like it. I ended up researching Wendigs history…and decided it is irrelevant. The problem is if I went looking others will to. If it was an adult book I wouldn’t care as much. With YA, however, your research needs to accurate.  Maybe not with urban fantasy or paranormal books but ones dealing with serious issues such as molestation, hate crimes, and racism you do.  I don’t recommend stylistic choices or creative license with this kind of YA.  Working with at-risk teenagers, one thing  I learned is they will crucify you if you get this stuff wrong – with some justification. Truthfully, a part of me got angry and started throwing terms like poser around in my stewing brain.  It took me a minute to figure out why I was having such a strong negative reaction.

Wendig has a good book here. He also has a reputation of his research being accurate. He did so with the Miriam Black series.   I had a hard time with Miriam because I know a real non-paranormal version of her.  I had to give him credit for bringing to life this character that you feel sympathetic towards despite her sociopathic behavior.  I believed he must have had some real world experience and gave him the credit for it.  I wish he had done his research as well this time so I didn’t come away disillusioned – justifiably or not.  I came away feeling he had appropriated poor culture.  This may sound strange but there isn’t a lot great about being poor and definitely not about being young and poor. The claim to fame is you survived it.   I started to feel that Wendig sat back and said who can I make the bad guy?  Atlanta is supposed to help the disenfranchised so who can be the bad guy? I know! White-trash neo-Nazis!  I say good choice. I’ve no love for neo Nazis, who does? – except for neo Nazis. I know Wendig does not want to discriminate. He mentioned so in his blog. However, with Atlanta Burns, he could be perceived as discriminating against a socio-economic class. He has white neo Nazis; poor pedophiles; a poor white slut; a set of poor white trash, home schooled, Irish twins that kidnap bait dogs; a weak single mother who doesn’t work, lives off the system, and who didn’t protect her daughter; etc. The Amish and Mennonites are only used in reference to being the dirty side of town and for selling expired food. Each of these characters need to be there, they exist, but it came off feeling wrong. All that effort to be politically correct, to the point it’s almost painful, and he missed socio-economic class. There had to have been one good poor adult in that town.

At some point I realized I was reading an ARC and was so glad. It meant I could give feedback. I didn’t hear anything back but I do think it was a mistake, and one I’m betting was fixed. You will have to tell me – those of you reading the finalized copy after the publish date.  I will cross my fingers.  Let me know so I can give credit where credit is due.

I received this from Netgalley and Amazon Children’s publishing in return for an honest review.


The Secret Place – Tana French

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‘Faithful Place’ is my favorite Tana French book.  The dysfunctional family of Frank Mackey was hard for me to let go of when the book ended.  I think French shares my love for Frank  because with ‘The Secret Place’ he is now part of three Dublin Murder Squad books  He’s not the center of this book.  That honor goes to Detective Stephen Moran and Mackey’s daughter Holly.  Holly is now a teenager and a boarder at the prestigious school St. Kilda’s. Frank, being undercover and from a sketchy part of Dublin, surprisingly sent his daughter to boarding school.  It would be a surprise to anyone, but Ryan worked with  Frank on Mackey’s brothers murder.  Frank wouldn’t want his daughter taking on airs and becoming posh.  The Mackey he knew would have had his daughter in public school. When sixteen year old Holly Mackey walks into his office, however, with the picture of a dead boy and a clue to one of the Squads biggest murder cases he sees she has grown up.  He got the collar with the help of Frank and Holly’s witness testimony when she was only nine.  He had no business making the arrest at Faithful Place, but he did, and it both made and stunted his career.  He’s been stuck in Cold Cases.  Holly’s appearance, and trust in him, may give him his only opportunity onto the murder squad.

Moran talks his way into Antoinette Conway’s, the Detective Inspector for the Chris Harper murder, good graces.  She allows Moran to ride along to the school to prove his worth on a very temporary basis, specifically, only as long as he’s useful.  Conway is without a partner and no one on the squad wants to work with her.  She’s tough, prickly, and isn’t there to make friends.  Moran doesn’t care as long as he can get a shot at Murder.  As is French’s tendency, her characters are flawed, complex, and not wholly likable.  That said they are always interesting.  Moran and Conway find a rhythm.  Conway takes full advantage of Moran’s likability to weedle their way into the girls confidences.  They are in for a much longer day, and night, than either expected.

French explores the world of adolescent girls with this mystery.  She makes it clear that whether at boarding school or at the poorest public school in Dublin they are the same.  All the advantages the rich give their children don’t make them exempt from anger, lying, cheating, stealing, or the ability to murder.  This does not mean she presents them as trite, stupid, or predictable.  On the contrary; behind the primping, the make up, the magazine’s, texting, boys, and mindless slang they are astute and dangerous.  Somewhere at St. Kilda’s a murderer is hiding among several girls with countless secrets kept for thousands ‎ of reasons.  Hidden amongst them is the reason a teenage boy was killed.  French details the life of young women – the expectations set on them and the various reactions they have to those expectations.  Those reactions are virtuous as well as manipulative and cruel.  In the world French creates idealism and absolutes rule.  Adults are not to be trusted.  Moran and Conway have to gain access to what they hold right and close.  It’s not a small task.

I enjoyed ‘The Secret Place.’  The “OMG’s,” “like totally,” and”LOL’s” started to grate on my nerves but they were supposed to.  French captures the intelligence, the hope, the painful embarrassment, the idealism and ridiculousness of adolescence.  I liken the experience to one I had when I read “Cat’s Eye” by Margaret Atwood.  The experience was visceral and brought back memories I had buried of being a girl that age.   French throws out several twists and red herrings.  I didn’t see many of them coming.  Something unique to French, that you either like or hate, is she leaves loose ends purposely unresolved.  It drives me crazy but I like it.  It feels real.  I’m sure in real murder cases you don’t get all the answers even when you find the perpetrator.  ‘Faithful Place’ is still my favorite of hers, but this is good.  I encourage you to pick it up if you are a Tana French fan, if you like mysteries, Irish mysteries, or psychological thrillers.  Do not pick this up if you aren’t interested in the lives of young girls and/or don’t want to read a lot of teenage slang/vernacular.

 

 


The Forgotten Girls – Sara Blaedel

The Forgotten Girls

Publish Date: January 7, 2015

‘The Forgotten Girls’ is a good addition to the Scandinavian mysteries that are being translated for English readers currently.  Blaedel has been writing them prior to their recent popularity and if Goodreads is accurate it looks like there are a few installments prior to ‘The Forgotten Girls’ surrounding Louise Rick’s friend Camilla Lind we will need to learn about as well.  I believe this is the first book where Louise Rick is in the spotlight.  It is a fast paced mystery centered around the story of a mysterious woman who is found dead in one of Denmark’s forests.  What makes her distinguishable  is a large scar on her face, but no one can identify her.  For a woman in her thirties someone should know her if not trying to find her.

Louise Rick has recently been put in charge of a new missing persons department.   She has a lot to prove in an office of men where the only other woman is the secretary.  The secretary doesn’t want her there and seems to have a grudge against her for unknown reasons.  Louise has been assigned a detective, Eik, who has a reputation for great solves.  She, however, had to scoop him off the floor of a bar his first day…in the morning.  To say she is concerned is an understatement.  When Louise learns that her missing person’s case will take her back home she is forced to deal with personal issues she would rather leave buried.

Louise’s boyfriend committed suicide when she was young.  They had just moved in with one another and Louise, unable to cope with the loss, ran away.  She built a life for herself and her son, away from her home town, with a supportive neighbor, her parents, and close friend Camille.  Through the years she didn’t deal with the loss and when the young missing woman is identified as a young disabled girl who was committed to a mental institution that leads to clues in her hometown Louise gets dragged back.  She must investigate it’s connection to a string of rapes and murders and the missing person/persons Lisemette.  Stranger still Lise and Mette, known as Lisemette, were buried 30 years ago.  How can the dead woman they found possibly have death certificates for 30 years back?

Blaedel’s story is fascinating.  I wonder if some of the story has been lost in translation.  There are pieces of the book that are amazing.  They make you feel you are in the moldy detectives office and the woods.  Others aren’t executed or translated as well.  The flow seems disjointed or transitions to quickly.  I enjoyed the book, especially the parts including Eliselund, the mental hospital, and Lisemette.  I was left wanting to know more about what happened to Louise’s boyfriend and hope that we get more information in the next installment.  I would definitely read more by Blaedel.  That being said I think the editor may want to work with some portions to ensure the translation  matches the original work and/or smooth out a few rough spots.

I received ‘The Forgotten Girls’ from Netgalley and Grand Central Publishing for an honest review.


London Falling – Paul Cornell

London Falling (Shadow Police, #1)

I found Paul Cornell through Ben Aaronovitch – author of The Rivers of London Series.  I was checking his Goodreads page to find an update for ‘Foxglove Summer.’  Aaronovitch read and rated ‘London Falling’ well.  London officers are investigating Crime Boss Rob Toshak, who for ten years has been able to charm jury’s and get off without a slap on the wrist to their endless frustration.  It has some basic similarities to The Rivers of London.   There is a paranormal division in the London police that civilians are unaware of.  ‘London Falling’ is grim and it’s characters not as likable.  I enjoyed this book. I hated the first two chapters that introduced us to the Undercover cops Costain and Sefton who are embedded in Toshak’s criminal enterprise.  The book grew on me the more I read.  Stick with it.

Most authors, even with their unlikable characters, try to endear the reader to them.  I don’t believe Cornell cares about this.  I will say I grew to like them more as the story churned on.  They have undesirable traits.  Each character on the investigating team is important, and couldn’t function without them, but they get on each others last nerve.  Detective Investigator Quill has been running the Toshak investigation and as he is raiding Toshak’s enterprise he has every intention of taking Costain down in the process. Quill doesn’t trust him, and whether he has proof or not, he’s going to trash Constain’s career.  Costain is the lead undercover, and Quill should distrust him, he has set aside some of Toshak’s drug supply for a rainy day.  He is just as willing to sell out the investigation as support it if it means he ends up on top.  Sefton is the junior undercover and has allowed Costain to bully him and edit his investigation reports to delete any unsavory or questionable actions.  Sefton would love to get back at Costain.  He won’t proactively take Costain down but if the right questions are asked he’ll talk.  Lisa Ross is the analyst on the paperwork side of the investigation.  No one knows who she is, what her involvement is, and she doesn’t play well with others.  This unlikely crew are put together to solve Toshak’s death after he combusts in the investigation room with Detective Inspector Quill – drenching him and everything else in the room in blood.  There are no leads and no cause of death.  For all intents and purposes it looks like these four are set a hopeless task.

I listened to the audible version of book narrated by Damien Lynch.  I enjoyed his voice and interpretation of characters but he takes long pauses between sentences.  I thought that the download was skipping content.  It wasn’t.  I  sped the audio up to adjust for this but it didn’t help.  I had to get used to it.  If you choose to go with the audible version make sure you listen to the sample before purchasing to ensure this will not detract from your enjoyment of the story.

As the magic system developed, the team became more cohesive, and the investigation evolved into the paranormal I dug in and found myself captivated.  I did find I had to go back and listen to portions a second time to ensure I knew who was speaking.  It wasn’t always obvious which characters narrative you were in.  I felt I was involved in my own investigation.  Usually this would be a frustration for me but I didn’t mind it.  I encourage people who enjoy adult paranormal, thriller, and noir to read this.  I don’t believe all of Aaronovitch’s fans will like it.  It doesn’t have the same sense of humor that The Rivers of London has. Chuck Wendig fans might like it a bit more.  It’s not as gritty as Wendig but I could see his fans enjoying this.  I have hope that this series will develop and intend to pick up the second in this series, ‘The Severed Streets’.  I’m picking up the e-book because, unfortunately, the second book is not available in audible yet.  I grew to like Lynch.


Curse Breaker: Guild Assassin – Berley Kerr

Curse Breaker: Guild Assassin (Curse Breaker, #1)

This is a steampunk fantasy.  Wendy Magdalena Braca was born into wealth in Jupiter city on one of the 500.  The 500 are habitable planets that for a fee you can jump to and are controlled by various countries of the mother realm earth. There are more than the 500 planets but The 500 are civilized while The Outlands, are wild, less habitable, and lawless.  At the age of twelve Wendy gets convicted for killing her mother.  She is innocent, but that fact was irrelevant.  She is deemed insane, convicted, and locked in Greenleaf Asylum for Troubled Girls to be forgotten.

Greenleaf fits a Gothic description of an insane asylum.  Patients are placed in cells, forced medication to keep them docile, food is limited and lacks nutrition, and treatment is questionable.  Thompson, the doctor, who for all intents and purposes is God and ruler of the asylum, regularly offends against patients with the help and participation of  male orderlies.  There is no one to protect the girls, they have no family,  Nurses and staff are fired if they say anything, and they can’t protect themselves.  Their word means little against the doctor’s; he’s a pillar of the community.

During a particularly gruesome interaction with Thompson, Wendy has a break .  All her senses are heightened and her strength is increased.  She kills the doctor and orderlies.  Since she is a fourteen year old girl, without the physical ability to mount the ferocity of attack and brutality found, she is not suspected .  An orderly knows she was there, but to vocalize his concerns would force him to admit knowledge of lascivious, despicable acts of abuse.  He has no intention of incriminating himself.  For the moment she is safe, but despite her fear, and Wendy’s best efforts, she can’t replicate what happened to her during her break.  Disease breaks out at Greenleaf causing it to be quarantined. The asylum, considered a hazard, is set to burn to dispose of the diseased bodies  As it goes up in flames, Wendy, remarkably untouched by the illness, is saved by a stranger.

Wendy’s rescuers are a guild of Validus Assassins and believe she is one of them.  Validus are people with powers beyond those of normal human beings.  Her new family believes Wendy exhibits signs of being the fabled Curse Breaker, a special kind Validus of extraordinary power, and the reason other Validus located and targeted her when her powers activated at the asylum.  They think the illness and asylum fire was created to dispose of her because any guild would rather kill her than let her fall into the wrong hands.  Every guild but her guild, that is, they do things differently.  Does this mean they always do the right thing?  It depends on your definition.  They are assassins, but they use their skills for the betterment of humanity.  She will have to learn if she agrees with their tactics as she becomes an adult and one of them.  It’s one thing to believe and do something as a child without power, options, or control.  It’s another to believe it when you are an independent, educated, adult.

Wendy is twelve when she is introduced to us, but this isn’t Young Adult.  It explores sex, drugs, and violence on a New Adult level. This is not a romance.  It also isn’t overly graphic.  Wendy’s experiences, guild characters sexual interactions, and drug use are used for the purpose of coming of age.  It marks different levels of growth and coping mechanisms.  I applaud the concept that sex is not solely a device for instant love, gratification, or moral purposes. My one frustration, however, is some situations and character reaction did not always ring true.   I felt the gravity of some experiences, if they were going to be introduced, needed more depth.  While Kerr was purposeful about with situations for character development, the character reaction seemed to be abrupt and lacking.

It is steampunk and I enjoyed it.  Kerr built a world where people are able to jump to planets both civilized and uncivilized.  It’s an interesting hybrid of science fiction  and alternate history with its own version of the internet, airships, and portals.  For Kerr’s purposes, being able to jump to other civilizations was developed in the 1800’s.  He provides us with enough historical and scientific explanation for plausibility without detracting from the pace of the plot.  Suffice it to say, I found Kerr balanced the needs of world building with most readers attention spans.  There is a class divide between the Validus and regular humans, although this is kept secret, but also a divide between the elite and the poor.  The elite only live on “The 500,” planets better suited to human civilization and are structured by a Victorian standard.  Men wear top hats and suits: the women are in dresses covering them from head to toe.  The dominant population in The Outlands are poor, dress code is in the style of the Wild West, in rough homespun garments worn repeatedly with patches.  Clothing is worn for comfort and use rather than cultural morality standards.  The poor also populate The 500. A noticeable difference between the elite and everyone else is a lot more skin is shown. Clothing, machinery, and airships are described  in detail to honor the genre.  That being said, a large amount of attention is devoted to describing merry widow corsets and the length of a skirt.

This is an enjoyable novel.  I have every intention of picking up the next installment in this series.  I need some of you to read it so Kerr can go about the business of getting the second book published.  I hope you took that as a hint as it was meant as one.  I need to know what happens next. While I mentioned a few things that felt off to me the writing is very good.   I recommend this for anyone who likes Steampunk, alternate history fantasy, and older teens and above.

I received this from NetGalley and Curiosity Quills Press in return for an honest review.


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