Joanne’s Mystery Picks

33245502INTO THE WATER by Paula Hawkins

I’m not sure what those people who’ve put Hawkins’ latest book to the top of the bestsellers list for upwards of 7 weeks see in it.  I found it to be confusing, convoluted, and at times even misleading.  The story revolves around the drowning deaths of a number of women in a British town.  It’s believed by the people of the town that the river has some power that draws women to it – magic, or witchcraft – but this point is never fully discussed or explained.

The novel is peopled with so many characters that it’s difficult to keep them straight and I found that I was constantly flipping back and forth in the book to figure out “whose sister was whose” and where “so and so” fit in the family.  Sometimes a character is mentioned briefly and then never appears in the novel again, leaving the reader to wonder what purpose they even had in the telling of the story.

Hawkins sends us off on tangents that leave us shaking our heads and red herrings that take us nowhere.  I’m still trying to figure out what her reference to “Adam and Eve and dinosaurs” is all about!

This novel left me disappointed and unsatisfied, which are the opposite feelings that I had after reading her first novel, “The Girl on the Train”. Give “Into the Water” a miss – there are many well-written stories out there that will be much more rewarding to read than this one.

29910780THE CHALK PIT by Elly Griffiths

Ruth is in a good place in her life right now.  Work is going well; her daughter, Kate, is four years old and in school; and Nelson has been able to take a small roll (picking Kate up from school on occasion) in both their lives.  Nelson, on the other hand, is dealing with a new Superintendent – Jo Archer – whose main ambition, it would appear, is to put Nelson out to pasture.

When Ruth is called to investigate some bones found in one of the many chalk-mining tunnels in King’s Lynn, both she and Nelson are thrust into a murder investigation.  Meanwhile DS Judy Johnson is investigating the disappearance of a number of “rough sleepers” (homeless people).

When one of them is found murdered and a woman in the community goes missing under circumstances similar to those of the rough sleepers, the investigation is ramped up.

Then, as so often happens, Ruth’s good luck runs out, leaving her bereft.  Her family has been rocked by sadness and Nelson has given her some upsetting news.  Griffiths provides us with an unexpected twist to the story and I can only wonder where the next book in this series will take us.

If you’re new to this series (Ruth Galloway Mysteries), DO read them in order.  You need the background of each of the characters in order to truly appreciate their relationship to one another.  Between the archeological discussions and the great character development, Griffiths provides us with a cracker-jack read!

Joanne’s Mystery Picks

9781770412767_1024x1024BENEATH THE WAKE by Ross Pennie

It’s fifteen months since Zol’s fiancé, Colleen, was killed in a car crash and he is desperate for a well-deserved rest.  So Zol, son Max, Max’s friend Travis, and Zol’s colleague and new girlfriend, Natasha, are enjoying the high life on the Coral Dynasty, a cruise ship embarking from Perth, Australia, on its way to South Africa.  Zol is hoping that the only worries that he’ll have on this trip will be enforcing the boys to wear their suits and ties at supper each night.

However, that’s not to be.  When members of the crew start becoming sick with a strange affliction, Natasha is quick to offer assistance to the ship’s doctor, Noah Ferguson.  She quickly realizes that the situation is much worse than first diagnosed, and she appeals to Zol to lend a hand.  With limited resources to identify the pathogen responsible for the sickness, the team contact Hamish Wakefield back home for help.  By coincidence, Hamish and Noah attended med school together and worked well as a team.

While they are racing against the clock to identify the cause of the illness on board, Natasha witnesses other disturbing goings-on.  Certain passengers are given “special services” by the medical team and she’s disturbed by what she sees.

Once the pathogen is identified, it’s easy enough to see where this story is leading.

Though not as riveting as Pennie’s other novels in the series, there were some startling surprises along the way.  Still worth the read.

93823THE LONG DROP by Denise Mina

This is the true story of a series of horrific crimes that took place in Glasgow in 1958.  We know who the serial killer was – Peter Manuel.  Manuel had been on the police’s radar for a long time but they were never able to get “the goods” on him to keep him in prison.

When William Watt is arrested for the murder of his own family but released due to lack of evidence, he is determined to clear his name and willing to pay for any information that will lead to the arrest of the murderer of his wife and children.  Peter Manuel contacts him, agreeing to help.

Mina mixes fiction and parts from the transcript of the trial of Peter Manuel to bring this story to life.  It is gruesome and the crimes are abhorrent.  This novel is a tour de force though most certainly not a story for the faint of heart.

 

 

 

Joanne’s Mystery Picks

51rpbhltysl-_sx339_bo1204203200_SIDNEY CHAMBERS and the PERSISTENCE OF LOVE by James Runcie

Archdeacon Sidney Chambers doesn’t look for murders.  They just happen to find him.  This is what happens on a tranquil day when he and daughter Anna are walking in the woods.  They almost trip over the body of a man.  He’s obviously dead and the circumstances of his death lead Sidney to believe that he’s been murdered.

With his good friend DI Geordie Keating, Sidney finds himself involved in solving this murder and subsequent mysteries which include the theft of a valuable religious text; a case of unethical dealings in the art world (involving his friend Amanda); and the disappearance of his nephew.

These cases all have to do with love in one way or another and love plays a part in the problems that Sidney has to deal with in his parish.  Whether it be forbidden love, or love of self, or love of possessions, ultimately Sidney has to approach each instance with compassion and understanding.  When he is met with a personal loss, Sidney struggles with his faith to understand the “why” of what has happened.  He knows that somehow, the love that he holds in his heart will see him through this ordeal.

vertigo-42-9781476724058_lgVERTIGO 42 by Martha Grimes

When Jury’s friend, Sir Oswald Maples, asks him to meet with Maples’ friend, Tom Williamson, Jury finds himself investigating a death that took place seventeen years previously.  The death of Williamson’s wife, Tess, was ruled as an accidental fall, due to her chronic vertigo.  However, Williamson has never really believed that Tess fell to her death, yet has never been able to explain exactly how she did fall.

Meanwhile in Long Piddleton, police are in full force in the area of Tower Cottage where the body of a young woman has been found at the base of the tower.  Did she fall?  Was this suicide?  Or was something more sinister at work here?

Grimes peppers this novel with classic film references: Lawrence of Arabia, Casablanca, and Hitchcock’s Vertigo (a wonderful film about doppelgangers), all seemingly innocuous until the two deaths (and two others – one in the past, and one in the present), start to merge.

Slowly, Jury is able to put the pieces together with help from Plant and through a suggestion from the infamous Harry Johnson (he of The Old Wine Shades).  Alas, Johnson’s story is still unfinished, and so I await the next installment in Jury’s cases, hoping that finally he’ll be able to bring Johnson to justice.

 

Joanne’s Mystery Picks

16074348STRANGLEHOLD by Robert Rotenberg

What do you do when you are arrested for first degree murder and the arresting officer is someone who you’ve been mentoring?  That’s what Ari Greene is faced with when he stumbles across a homicide and Daniel Kennicott takes him into custody.  Suddenly all of Greene’s secrets are secrets no more.    And how can he clear his name while he’s confined to house arrest while awaiting his trial?  As Ari fights to prove his innocence, another “fight” is taking place in Toronto – that for the election of the new mayor.

Greene begins to realize that not everyone is as they seem and there are far too many things in their pasts that are coming back to haunt them and those close to them.  The line between politics and his private life is becoming blurred and his situation is becoming more precarious as the days go on.

Rotenberg provides a real page-turner with this fourth book in his Greene/Kennicott series and his clever ending had me almost applauding.

Joanne’s Mystery Picks

51fh9sj6kcl-_sx320_bo1204203200_THE LAST DETECTIVE by Peter Lovesey

Not to be confused with the TV series of the same name (based on the Dangerous Davies’ books by Leslie Thomas), the last detective in Lovesey’s novel is DS Peter Diamond.  He fancies himself a bit like Fabian of the Yard, a true gumshoe.  Diamond can’t be bothered with all the new-fangled science surrounding police work, like “genetic fingerprinting” and computer-generated lists of suspects.  He’d rather be hitting the pavement, knocking on doors, and interviewing potential suspects.

When the nude body of a female is found floating in a reservoir near Bristol, Diamond relies on his investigative skills to identify the woman and find her killer.  Along the way he encounters a university professor whose heroic efforts save a young boy from drowning; the boy’s mother who works as a chauffeur; and a missing letter purported to have been written by Jane Austen.

When he examines these seemingly disconnected pieces of information, a picture begins to form.  Meanwhile, his tactics are not supported by the “powers that be” and Diamond finds himself alone and in pursuit of a murderer.

His name might be Diamond but he isn’t as polished as Morse, or Richard Jury, or Penny’s Inspector Gamache.  He’s gruff and a rough-cut.  But he gets the job done.