Joanne’s Mystery Picks

51klp2bgun4l-_sx335_bo1204203200_THE DEVIL’S DICE by Roz Watkins

It’s always exciting to discover a new author in one’s favourite genre.  Roz Watkins was brought to my attention by Stephen Booth (Cooper and Fry series) in his newsletter, and although I’m glad that I’ve read this, her first book in the DI Meg Dalton series, I think she still needs a little polishing.  There’s a little too much repetition and she leaves too many assumptions up to the reader to make a smooth transition between discovering the crime and solving it.

Meg comes to her job as a DI in Derbeyshire (the Peak District) with lots of baggage – the death of her sister and its subsequent affect on Meg; a grandmother with a terminal illness who lives with Meg’s Mum; and questions about her ability to do the job.  So when the body of a man is found in a cave, amidst rumours of a local curse, Meg crosses her fingers that she’s up to the task of finding out what lead to his murder.

Watkins peoples this novel with many characters, some of whom are very troubled individuals, and at times it’s an effort to remember who’s who.  Her colorful descriptions of the area paint a perfect picture of both the ruggedness and the beauty of the Peak District.  And if you’re at all claustrophobic, beware of the sections of the book that take place in caves!

A promising first novel which leaves me open to reading her next one in the series: Dead Man’s Daughter.

Joanne’s Mystery Picks

9780727886958COVER UP by Patricia Hall

It’s been years since I’ve read a mystery by this author so I was pleased to see this new publication. I was a faithful reader of Hall’s Laura Ackroyd/DCI Michael Thackery series so it was interesting to read Cover Up, the sixth mystery in her Kate O’Donnell series.

It’s 1964 and Kate has been given a magazine assignment in Liverpool to showcase the many changes that the city has undergone since the war. Her feature is to coincide with the release of the Beatles’ movie “A Hard Day’s Night”. The city is teeming with reporters and fans, anxious to get a glimpse of this musical foursome.

Meanwhile, Kate’s partner, DS Harry Barnard, has been investigating the murder of a woman whose body was found in Soho days earlier. Finding her identity is proving very difficult and Harry is determined to investigate the death in spite of his DCI’s request that he drop it.

As Harry carries out his investigations in London and Kate digs deeper into the regeneration of Liverpool, they both find evidence of cover-ups and corruption, leading them into dangerous situations.

51wo9pwuvwl-_sx308_bo1204203200_BRYANT & MAY: WILD CHAMBER by Christopher Fowler

The Peculiar Crimes Unit is called in to investigate the murder of a woman whose body was found in a private garden.  She’s been strangled but her body is lovingly positioned.  Before the body is even cold, another murder takes place – another woman, in a park, with her body positioned.

With these two murders, the Unit pulls out all the stops to find the killer.  Fowler takes us on a wild ride around London, with Arthur Bryant in the driver’s seat as we are treated to a delicious history of its green spaces.  Little by little, Arthur puts together the pieces of the puzzle, relying on his great wealth of the arcane and the help of his retinue of strange acquaintances.

This is such a clever, brilliant novel, ripe with British humour that you can’t help but laugh as you turn page after page.  Fowler is a master of wordplay and this novel doesn’t disappoint.  The characters are funny and colorful and as he builds up the suspense, we are almost holding our breath.  Once you start reading this book, you won’t want to put it down until you’ve reached the last page.  That’s what  happened to me!

Joanne’s Mystery Picks

HEART OF THE CITYheart-of-the-city-9781476740577_hr  by Robert Rotenberg

After the events in Stranglehold Ari Greene distances himself from his life as a cop and takes a job on a construction site for a new condo development in Toronto.  His life has been changed dramatically with the discovery of a 21 year old daughter of whom he had no prior knowledge.  When he stumbles across the body of Livingston Fox, condo developer, he is reluctantly thrust back into his former life, in pursuit of a vicious murderer who does not stop at killing only Fox.

After an awkward reconciliation with Daniel Kennicott, his protégé, Greene and he join forces once again as they follow the money in the high-stakes world of downtown development in pursuit of Fox’s murderer.  Like any case, once you crack the secrets you’ve pretty much cracked the case.  In this case, some of those secrets strike very close to home for Greene.

Rotenberg provides us with a first-class mystery as the suspects start adding up.

It’s Greene who works it all out in the end – to a startling and unexpected conclusion.

THE SEAGULL by Ann Cleeves35963210

When Vera is asked to visit her local prison to give a talk on the repercussions of crime on its victims, she’s confronted by former DS John Brace, now an inmate for corruption and his role in a death.  He wants to strike a deal with Vera. He’s prepared to provide her with information about the disappearance of Robbie Marshall, a notorious figure at the time he disappeared almost twenty years ago.  In return, he wants Vera to look out for his daughter and grandchildren.

Vera’s investigation into this cold case plunges her back in time to her years living with her father, Hector, and brings up disturbing memories of his illegal activities.

Marshall was someone she remembers as having visited their house along with Brace and two others, all friends of Hector.

The more Vera digs into this case, the closer it gets to home. With Hector being one of the last people to see Marshall alive, Vera is forced to consider the possibility that Hector was involved in Marshall’s death.  As Vera reflects on this time in her life we’re given a better understanding of how her past and her years of living with Hector in such a dysfunctional household have formed the person she is today.

Joanne’s Mystery Picks

512bzcnpdhtl-_sx334_bo1204203200_SLEEPING IN THE GROUND by Peter Robinson

When DS Alan Banks and his team are called to the scene of a mass murder it’s as if we’re witnessing an event ripped from the headlines of a newspaper.  Someone has targeted a wedding party outside a church and there are many casualties. When their investigations lead them to a suspect, Banks and his team are left with more questions than answers and begin to second-guess their findings.

At the same time he’s working this case, Banks is dealing with the death of a former girlfriend and the return of profiler Jenny Fuller, with whom he almost committed adultery years before.  Rather than providing a leadership role as befitting his rank, Banks seems to spend a lot of his time mooning about – like a love-sick schoolboy.

Even with these three storylines working back and forth, the novel becomes clichéd and predicable.  Conclusions are reached after minimal investigation and his team make decisions without consulting Banks or each other.  The plotting is shoddy and the characters are mere shadows on the page.  Even the regular characters appear lifeless.  What used to be interesting (i.e. Banks’ music choices) becomes boring and repetitive as Robinson launches into an often lengthy description about the songs and artists he’s chosen to play,  every time he’s within range of a sound system.

Needless to say, this novel was a disappointment.  I can only hope that it’s a one-off and that Robinson’s next book will redeem him in the hearts of his readers.

 

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!