Reviews

Song of the Lion by Anne Hillerman

Reviewed by Mary Alice Gorman
Hardcover April 2017

I’m crazy about how adeptly Anne Hillman transforms the best selling series of her late father into a very contemporary mystery series featuring a woman Navajo Tribal cop Bernadette Manuelito married to Jim Chee and admirer of the tired Joe Leaphorn. Catch Spider Woman’s Daughter and Rock with Wings before feasting on the latest, Song of the Lion. I read this during the hot summer of protests over the Dakota Access oil pipeline near Cannonball, North Dakota and the simmering complaints by the Standing Rock Souix Tribe about water safety and the destruction of sacred burial grounds. This third mystery features the moral dilemmas in the encroaching civilization the the land and life of theNative American tribes. This one is a great mystery but the question is left unsolved for another day.

Historical Mysteries March 2017

Historical Mysteries are my favorite Pastime, says Mary Alice Gorman. Here are a few of her recent reads.

The Other Einstein by Mary Benedict
Trade Paperback, July 2017

One of the things I love about Historical mystery novels is that they fill in huge gaps in my education about the lives and leadership of women. Well The Other Einstein will complete your understanding of how the development of this erratic genius was shaped and enabled by a brilliant woman who he treated badly in the end. Unique was Mitza Maric’s brilliance and education for the time as she studied math and physics beside men in 19th century Zurich. On the path she encounters the experience unique to women that changes her course. A remarkable, detail laden living and breathing story of a remarkable woman that you cannot put down. 

Revenge in a Cold River by Anne Perry
Hardcover, September 2016

I may have missed a few of the wonderful Monk and Hester series but I had no trouble jumping into the thrills and troubles of Commander William Monk of the Thames River Police. Still on guard from his memory loss we catch a frightening glimpse of his past in the heyday of the Gold Rush in San Francisco. How’s that for a shock! Read this one on a hot night and I bet the chilling conspiracy and atmosphere will cool you to the startling end. Ann Perry at her finest in another historical thriller.

 

 

Home Sweet Home by April Smith
Hardcover, January 2017

In this generation parents remind children to not put anything on the internet they don't want popping up in their later professional adult lives. Well if only the parents of the early prewar days in the US had cautioned their kids about joining just any social or political group for advancement of workers and unions. but here is where our tale begins. The Kusek family moves from the turmoil of 50’s New York city to the midwest seeking a quiet life. South Dakota ranchers, a lawyer and a nurse and their kids are part of the heartland until the powers that be challenge Cal in his campaign for the senate. The panic of McCarthyism, a trial and murder ultimately bring an adult daughter back in 1985 when her brother and family are attacked. An epic tale of fear and hatred well told in this elegant novel by one of my faves.

In This Grave Hour by Jacqueline Winspear
trade paperback, March 2017

On September 3, 1939 PM Neville Chamberlain broadcasts Britain’s declaration of war with Germany. The London of Maisie Hobbs is in the grip of possible invasion and readied for war. As a special assignment to find a Belgium refugee from the last war comes to Maisie, another special refugee-a speechless child-is becoming part of her country family. In the detailed sleuthing the plot shines and once again Winspear fills in the gaps of our knowledge of the World Wars and the nuance of the impacts on all social classes. The ending will amaze fans of the series. A winner always.

Girl Waits with Gun by Amy Stewart
trade paperback, May 2016

So here is where it all begins for women police in the USA. Sort of…..with Constance Kopp the first female deputy sheriff. Following actual factual history, Ms Stewart introduces the plucky hero who steps up to the line to provide justice for her dear quirky sisters and all. Fresh and funny the series continues through Lady Cop Makes Trouble #2 and another due in 2017.

 

 

The Trespasser by Tana French

Reviewed by Richard Goldman
Hardcover October 2016

The Trespasser is the latest in what Tana French calls her Dublin Murder Squad series but it's the sixth in a series defined not by a particular character but by a chain of characters who have handed off each new book to a lesser character from the previous book.

The Trespasser features detective Antoinette Conway, who did appear in the previous The Secret Place where she partnered with Steve Moran who carried the protagonist point of view. In The Trespasser these roles are reversed and Antoinette is very much in command of the narrative while Steve takes a distinctly supporting role. Antoinette is the only woman on the Murder Squad and she's mixed race to boot. Needless to say she's had a rough time of it and it's given her a distinct chip on her shoulder and an aggressive and defensive attitude toward her colleagues. In fact Steve is about the only person she can be partnered with and their relationship has its ups and downs.

The case that they are both thrown into is the death of a young woman, Aislinn Murray, found with her head caved in in her own home. She was expecting a man over for dinner and that man claims she never answered her door or his texts when he arrived for dinner--presumably because she was already dead. Even before the investigation can begin Antoinette's boss has saddled her with another detective, Breslin, to "help her out with the interviews" and his help seems to quite quickly turn to pressuring Antoinette and Steve to arrest the boyfriend.

Theories are soon flying about possible corruption, the victim's having a secret boyfriend, perhaps a criminal and finally dark doings concerning the disappearance of Aislinn's father when she was a child.

All of these leads are pursued at a furious pace while Antoinette and Steve try to work out whether Breslin or his regular partner are somehow involved either with the victim or the murder. All the while Antoinette's paranoia about the Murder Squad and their desire to drive her out makes her doubt everyone's motives, even Steve's, as well as her own judgment.

Perhaps what I love most about Tana French's books--and The Trespasser is an excellent example--is the the subtle combination of solid puzzle mystery, explanation of police work and the exploration of character and motive both on the part of the victims and criminals but equally on the part of the detectives. During the course of this book we'll find out quite a lot about Aislinn Murray and what made her tick. We'll also find out how she died and why and we'll find out who did it. But even more we'll find out about Antoinette Conway and what drives her to act as she does.

A solid bit of mystery writing that I'd be happy to stand up against any straight novel.

Tana French began her mystery career with In the Woods which won a well-deserved Edgar in 2007 for Best First Novel. It was followed by four further novels before the current book. I'd recommend reading them all.

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Reviewed by Mary Alice Gorman

No surprise here but my summer was spent reading a bunch and trying to breathe thru the humid soup of Pittsburgh weather with a broken nose. But that’s another story. I did have some great books to share and a few clinkers.

Seeing gal pal Lisa Scottoline this Summer at Mystery Lovers was the cherry on top for me after gulping down the latest wonderful Mary DiNunzio adventure. In Damaged, Lisa again explores how family court issues can be murder! Now a partner at the law firm Rosato & Dinunzio, Mary finds herself helping an elderly man with a special needs child as he tries to navigate the school system that doesn't serve the child as the law allows. When the man turns up dead, the bride to be finds her professional and private life turned on its head. With the characteristic scrupulous research, Lisa reveals the tough times for families wanting and needing fair and caring support from the educational system. A warm and welcome support system of family, friends, three Tonys and her true love aid in the battle with a local attorney named Machiavelli…..for real! Another winner here that you do not want to miss and share with a friend. This is also a good book for a book group as it is sure to generate much discussion about schools, elderly parents and weddings!

Louise Penny always delivers the goods even when the subject of the latest adventure for retired Surete du Quebec Inspector Armand Gamache is very sad. In A Great Reckoning the Three Pines gang gathers around the fireplace at the Bistro where a found map poses an intriguing puzzle for the group and the cadets at the Surety Academy where Ganache is acting director. A delicate path through lethal bullying, corruption, Orienteering maps and murder is forged by the gifted Canadian writer that we have come to know. Exquisite! It also helped that it was a wintery mix that kept me cooling my heels as I turned the pages on a hot summer night.

The Last Good Girl by Allison Leotta takes the issue of campus rapes and struggles of Title IX with her experiences as a federal prosecutor to the page in a compelling mystery. A Michigan college woman goes missing and the suspect is a member of a secretive Frat known as “the rape factory”. This is a very fine example of an author conveying the real life experiences of women who are victims of the University systems and then the legal systems. A smart, real and powerful storyteller with real gifts

What can I say about the #32 Sharon Cone mystery from the flawless Marcia Muller? I have been with her through All Souls Legal Clinic and a killing, through single life and a hot love affair turned into lucrative adventure business corporation, through friends and family, thru fire and loss……and she will still surprise me with another delicate plot twist. Someone Always Knows places the professional sleuth in peril, an old partner of husband Hy returns from the dead and an abandoned house unearths secrets. Vintage McCone and Muller march on…..this one for fans.

Another vintage thriller can be found in the National Park Service company of Ranger Anna Pigeon with number 19, Boar Island. When dear friend Heath Jerrod finds her adopted teen daughter suicidal over online bullying and harassment, getting out of town seems the best solution. With Anna soon to work in Acadia National Park in Maine, the whole extended family flees the rumor mill for some R&R on a coastal Island. The twisted stew of stalkers and murder soon threaten any peace and bolt Anna into high gear in another wild adventure cooking with sensory details. Always a page turner and a best bet for an all-nighter.

Killer Look by the always terrific Linda Fairstein paints the fashion industry in New York City with all the glitter and drama of any magazine slick. Beit backstage of a runway, on racks of designer duds, in Museums and catwalks you can find murder. This time Alex is finding work a battle and sorting through the secrets and lies a balm for PTSD she suffers.  I loved the book but am wondering where we are going with the work and heart of the able Assistant DA Alex Cooper and her cop pals. There is a real cliffhanger for fans to mull over when the sun comes up after whipping through this one.

I did not like the creepy You Will Know Me by Meg Abbott which I read during the Summer Olympics. I think raising five teens who had friends obsessed with the worlds of gymnastics, ballet, band, swimming and more…..the folks in this book were just not the real deal to me. Let me know if you liked it as it is the big bestseller of the Summer of 2016 and I would like to hear your thoughts.

Ditto for another bestseller, The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware. A travel writer on a cruise is the subject here but as a reader who loves character driven fiction, this one fell short for me.

TTFN...next time I will share the great and nearly historica lnovel I read recently.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

Revolver by Duane Swierczynski

Reviewed by Richard Goldman
Hardcover July 2016

I've read and enjoyed a number of Duane Swierczynski's atmospheric noir crime novels including his Wheelman, which is as gritty and noir a tale of crime and criminals as you are likely to read. His latest, Revolver, is quite a departure in that we've changed sides from robbers to cops. This is a three-generation tale of cops and family in Philly. The interwoven narratives begin with 1965 and the murder of two cops, partners, one of whom is the father of Jim Walczak who, in 1995, is a cop himself and is still investigating his father's death. In 2015 we meet Jim's daughter Audrey who is studying forensics and crime scene investigation. She takes on her grandfather's murder as a project for her classes--and as a desperate attempt to get her life back on track.

Swierczynski weaves a compelling tale of these interwoven time periods and personalities. Jim Walcaz is a particularly pivotal figure inasmuch as he's a kid in the earlier period, an adult in the second and the family patriarch in the most recent. I particularly enjoyed the nice balance between solving the mystery, getting to the bottom of what really happened and the exploration of the complicated family dynamics and personalities.

A great job by Swierczynski and I'll look forward to the next book whether its cops, robbers or something else entirely.

What We Become by Arturo Perez-Reverte

Reviewed by Richard Goldman
Hardcover June 2016

Buy it at Mystery Lovers Bookshop

I've certainly enjoyed every book by Arturo Perez-Reverte although some I've loved more than others. In the latter category titles like The Flanders Panel, The Fencing Master and The Siege come to mind. Now I'd like to add What We Become.

At my stage of life how could I not love a story filled with bittersweet romance, the simultaneous satisfactions and regrets of growing older, the memories of past events. Plus we've got cosmopolitan backdrops, gorgeous clothes and the best of the '20s, '30's and '60s.

The story spans 40 years and concerns a deep love between two people who only spend perhaps three weeks together during that period. Max Costa meets Mecha Inzunza  in 1928 on a trans-Atlantic liner bound for Buenos Aires where Mecha's husband intends to write a tango that, by being better than Ravel's Bolero will win a bet that he has with that well-known composer. While Mecha and her husband Armando are wealthy first class passengers Max is employed by the ship's owners to be a dancing partner for passengers. In this he is very accomplished: handsome, debonair, well-dressed, an excellent dancer. Naturally he's almost quite a gigolo and on the way to becoming quite a thief.

Over the coming 40 years Max and Mecha will meet twice more: in 1937 in Nice and in 1966 in Sorrento. On each occasion Max is up to no good but the attraction between the two lovers is undiminshed. The strands of these three stories are interwoven throughout the book with interesting parallels and contrasts as the story in the "present" carries forward while we gradually uncover the past events that led these two to their current situation.

While the romantic and erotic shenanigans carry on there is plenty of other intrigue including jewel thefts, the Spanish Civil War, Max working for fascist spies and finally, a chess matchup between Mecha's son and a Russian grandmaster that is chock full of Cold War-era hostility.

Brilliantly written, full of wonderful historical scenes, two unforgettable characters. Who could ask for more.

A Game for All the Family by Sophie Hannah

Reviewed by Richard Goldman
Hardcover May 2016

For over ten years Sophie Hannah has been entertaining me and millions of crime readers with her carefully constructed puzzles of domestic suspense. Make that domestic crazy because Hannah's particular talent is to bring you right into the middle of the overheated brains of her characters where you find yourself looking around and saying, "That's a really bad decision" right around the time you say, "OK, that makes sense, let's try that".

The most notable feature of Hannah's work is that each book begins with a puzzling circumstance and A Game for All the Family is no exception as we find Justine Merrison, former TV producer and London resident, on her way to Devon with her husband and daughter to start a new life in a beautiful and historic home on the river Dart. Shortly after arriving she begins to receive a series of threatening calls from a complete stranger who thinks that Justine is some other person entirely. More disturbingly, her teenage daughter Ellen has become obsessed with a boy at school. When Ellen reports that her friend has been unfairly expelled Justine goes to the school to defend him only to be met with denial that such a boy was expelled or, indeed, had ever been at the school.

From this spooky beginning Hannah weaves a tangled tale of murder and revenge that will baffle you as you seek to untangle the true from the false. But if all Hannah had going on was a puzzling plot you'd quickly tire of the game and you won't in this book as she invests her characters with authentic feelings as they struggle to make sense of their lives. Justine has a past that led to her fleeing her profession and her life in London. Ellen has her own issues as she falls deeper into the narrative of her friend George and his strange family.

An altogether satisfying psychological thriller that will keep you entertained while giving you some food for thought about the ways that people and families struggle to understand their histories.

A Chill List of Reading for a Hot Summer

by Mary Alice Gorman

Here's a chill list for welcoming a summer of perfect ten mystery reading, in no apparent order.

Enjoy.

Design for Dying by Renee Patrick

  This mystery writing couple who are Renee Patrick had me at Edith Head. My all time favorite designer turns sleuth to help solve a case with a backdrop of golden age Hollywood and a little help from Bob Hope, Barbara Stanwyck and amateur sleuth Lillian Frost. Looking forward to more mystery color in black and white Hollywood with great detail and perfect patter.

The Queens Accomplice by Susan Elia MacNeal

   Another case for Maggie Hope the smart secretary to Churchill who brings the intrigues and innuendo into sharp plots in the wartime series. London and spy work occupy Maggie and the queen in the sixth adventure. Here's one to binge this summer while you vacate.

Wilde Lake by Laura Lippman

Sometimes a perfectly created community grows the same scars and secrets that are at home everywhere. Think Columbia, Maryland and dig into the past and present family drama wrapped around a legal story. I always love Laura's focus and nuance that inhabits her writing but this standalone stands out. A little bit homage to Atticus Finch and a whole lot of modern  drama......superb!

Most Wanted by Lisa Scottoline

It's no mystery why the details around the modern creation issue at the heart of this novel took the gifted Scottoline down the rabbit hole of pain and passion that makes parenthood one of the most difficult roles we ever attempt. A pregnancy, sperm bank and a serial killer news moment tear open this drama in a well told and delicately researched drama. Trust me......you will think about this story for months.

Bloodroot by Cynthia Riggs

Cynthia Riggs native delight in her Martha's Vineyard home is a gorgeous backdrop for another mystery for the clever Victoria Trumbull. This time it's a deadly dental practice that opens a case both baffling and told beautifully in another mystery for a staycation of your dreams.  

The Art of Murder by Elaine Viets

When Florida detectives Helen Hawthorne and husband Phil take on the jobs of finding out who is burglarizing the high rises and poisoning a talented artist you can bet Elaine will leave you turning pages all night to get to the top and bottom of this drama. The thrill of reading the dead-end job mystery books is that you can usually pick up anywhere in the series and expect a Southern Florida puzzle chock-a-block with colorful characters and historic sights and sounds.

Journey to Munich by Jacqueline Winspear

I just adore these books that fill in all the missing parts of the women of World War I England and life in the aftermath. For the 12th In this flawless series detective Maisie Dobbs is on a Secret Service mission to 1938 Nazi Germany. Another reading binge is in order here if you have never read the series rendered in elegant detail. Highly recommended for mystery loving teens too.

London Rain by Nicola Upson

Having so enjoyed the UK series about the history of the BBC, The Hour, and all of the Josephine Tey mystery books, I was predisposed to loving the smart sixth in the Upson series that features the canny writer working at the BBC in the historical turning point following the abdication of Edward and the subsequent coronation. London foggy mystery murders beguile! 

Weekenders by Mary Kay Andrews

When a romantic vacation with her husband spawns a foreclosure and a mystery, Riley Griggs begins a search for the answers on the beautiful Belle Isle, North Carolina. You can always count on an Andrews novel for barefoot fun and sunny secrets. This outing is just the ticket for a summer weekend. 

Murder in the Wardrobe be Katherine Hall Page

Such fond memories of an idyllic stay in an apartment in the beautiful Savannah that we found I with a little help from our friend Mary Kay Andrews were reawakened with the latest Christie like puzzle from Katherine Hall Page. Caterer and minister's wife Faith Fairchild explores the mystery of the missing body and helps her friend lawyer Sophie Maxwell In a house hunting venture in the southern charms of this city bathed in Christmas charms. Read gingerly and share this one for a holiday gift.

Sure it's a big list but they all can be found at  www.mysterylovers.com or on the bright new website for Carnegie Library www.carnegielibrary.org

The Fourteenth Colony by Steve Berry

Reviewed by Richard Goldman
Hardcover April 2016

Buy it at Mystery Lovers Bookshop

Cotton Malone, never very retired, is back in action in this latest clever thriller from Steve Berry. As always, we can count on flawless research into obscure corners of American history that Berry expertly weaves into a conspiracy plot that will threaten the existence of the republic just until the moment that Malone, Cassiopeia Vitt and along with Stephanie Nelle of the Magellan Billet put a spoke in the wheels of the bad guys. If you’re new to the series, incidentally, The Magellan Billet is Berry’s imaginary agency that serves the President when something really, really has to get done.

This particular book takes place at a pivotal moment just days before the inauguration of a new President. With the handoff of the White House to the other party Stephanie Nelle and the Magellan Billet are finished so she and Malone will have to work off the books to put a stop to a plot right out of the Cold War.

I won’t spoil your fun by revealing any of the plot details but you’ll be interested to know that the title refers to Canada which the Founding Fathers very much hoped to get into the Union one way or another. I was also tickled by Berry’s inclusion of the Society of the Cincinnati, a philanthropic organization founded by George Washington’s officers after the war and still very much in existence with a membership made up entirely of descendants of the founding officers. Their headquarters near Dupont Circle plays a part in the plot and I recommend a visit for a tour next time your in the Capitol.

Great fun, full of interesting facts and history, lots of action and a totally satisfying resolution to all plot threads.

Night Night, Sleep Tight by Hallie Ephron

Just out is the paperback Night Night, Sleep Tight by one of my favorite writers, Hallie Ephron. Yes, she is one of those sisters whose formative years in Hollywood and genetic framework brought them all eventually into the wide world of entertainment. Hallie is the award-winning and bestselling mystery writer and book reviewer for the Boston Globe who shapes the skills of coming writers in workshops allover the country......but I digress.......this new one is a killer!

Back in our youth we all heard the gossip of the beautiful blonde movie star with the abusive gangster boyfriend who was in the headlines when her 12 year old daughter killed the lover. Right. A similar thirty year old murder serves as the glittery backdrop to a young woman's 1986 probe into the death of her father. I loved all the then and now quirks and secrets as they are elegantly woven into a thrilling page-turner chock-a-block with glamour, gossip and sandal. Perfect for Oscar night reading.