Joanne’s Mystery Picks

51kt-ec3rql-_sx324_bo1204203200_KNOTS AND CROSSES by Ian Rankin

Ian Rankin has a huge following of fans for his Rebus series but so far I’m not one of them.  I read a couple of his novels some years back but just couldn’t get into them so decided to give it another try with this, his first in the Rebus series.

John Rebus is haunted by a past that he has very little recollection of.  What recollection he does have has invaded his sleep with nightmares and his waking hours with flashbacks of horror and pain.

At the Great London Road police station in Edinburgh where he is a DS the team is investigating the abduction and deaths of young girls.  Meanwhile, Rebus is the recipient of a series of anonymous letters containing pieces of knotted string – letters which he quickly dismisses as practical jokes.

As the investigation shifts into high gear due to more abductions and deaths, a member of the public alerts the team to the possible motivation of the murderer.  Suddenly everything falls into place and Rebus knows exactly who is responsible.

3 Daggers
Joanne gives this “3 daggers out of 5”


Joanne’s Mystery Picks

9781459741218WHEN THE FLOOD FALLS: The Falls Mysteries by J.E. Barnard

Calgary author, J.E. Barnard, won the 2016 Unhanged Arthur Ellis Award for the Best Unpublished First Crime Novel for her mystery When the Flood Falls.  It’s a promising beginning to what appears to be a forthcoming series.

Lacey McCrae, ex-RCMP, has travelled from the Lower Mainland to Calgary with a lot of baggage – both literal and figurative.  She hopes to leave behind a marriage gone sour, and a job that she used to enjoy.  As she hooks up with her old university roommate, Dee Phillips, Lacey finds that the skills learned in her former job are called into play when Dee admits to being threatened on a number of different occasions.

Meanwhile, spring runoff threatens the main bridge crossing in the area and Lacey is particularly anxious about the possibility of being cut-off.  There’s obviously a back-story to Lacey’s anxiety but Barnard only hints at it.

I found there to be too many loose threads in this novel and can only hope that a subsequent book will tie up these loose ends, helping us to understand the cause of Lacey’s fears, the reason she left the force, and why she needed a new start in a new location.

xco2mg4zgjd6hffuiir4rhn6kyA DARKNESS OF THE HEART by Gail Bowen

Bowen’s 18th novel in the Joanne Kilbourn series brings a surprising revelation to the main character and proceeds to examine Joanne’s personal past in great detail.  This revelation affects many of the people in Joanne’s circle but none so much as Joanne herself.  She now has to re-examine her friendship with Sally Love and Sally’s family to understand how she, herself, fits into this new picture that has come into focus.

Roy Brodnitz, a writer of Broadway shows and a good friend of Joanne’s, hopes to examine the family history between Sally and Joanne in a mini-series and approaches Joanne about it while in town working on The Happiest Girl, his Broadway hit.  Soon Taylor has struck up a friendship with the young actress in the starring role and the entire family is thrust into the often seamy side of the movie industry.

This story often got bogged down in the lengthy descriptions and explanations of  past events and people and was slow to move forward where real action was at a minimum.  I found many of the passages to be tedious and was inclined to quickly read over them.  Now that Bowen has provided us with Joanne’s back-story, perhaps she’ll move on to more exciting events in the life of this character.

3 Daggers
Joanne gives this “3 daggers out of 5”

Joanne’s Mystery Picks

51qbswy8oil-_sx329_bo1204203200_THE WINNER’S CIRCLE by Gail Bowen

The law partners at Falconer Shreve Altieri Wainberg and Hynd along with their families knew how fortunate they were as they gathered together to celebrate Thanksgiving at Lawyers’ Bay.  The lakeshore property where they each owned a cottage, provided them with a much-needed escape from the stress of their jobs.  Little did they know as the gathered around the table for their Thanksgiving feast, that their lives would be torn apart by an unbelievable tragedy in just a few short weeks.

Bowen provides a comprehensive review of the years leading up to the events that take place in this, her seventeenth novel in the Joanne Kilbourn series.  In doing so, she shows how the most innocuous of events can grow toxic over the years.

I welcomed this review as it refreshed my memory of the many challenges that each of the characters in this series had faced over the years.  This background information gives us perspective into the motivations of the characters and acts as a driving force in the novel.


This was a very satisfying read and I think that Bowen has written one of her best with The Winner’s Circle.  She’s certainly set the bar high for herself for the next book in the series.

Joanne’s Mystery Picks

A couple Canadian authors for you this week.

488814The Last Good Day by Gail Bowen

A  lawyer-friend of Joanne’s loans her his cottage, one of a number of homes owned by the lawyers of the same prestigious firm, for a couple of weeks during the summer.  When one of the lawyers seeks her out one night for advice and the following day commits suicide, Joanne is forced to look at this group of people in a new light.  Something unpleasant is percolating just under the surface and it’s affecting everyone.  People are on edge, tempers flare, arguments break out.  When Taylor wonders what her legacy would be if she were to die right now, at the age of eleven years, Joanne is seriously troubled at how the stress is affecting everyone and realizes the need to get to the bottom of whatever is going on.

As the events unfold, Bowen draws to a close, a story-line that has woven its way through the past few novels and I felt a profound sadness at having to say good-bye to a character that was equally loved and disliked.

This is Bowen’s 9th novel in the series and I found it to be the best one to date.  Its overwhelming sadness marks it as being just that much different from the ones that came before it.  It’s one that I’ll remember for a very long time.

18169832Come Barbarians by Todd Babiak

Christopher Kruse could have had no idea that his decision to move his family to the south of France would change their lives forever.  He thought that by moving, he could start afresh, put his life as a high-risk security agent and the evils that came with that position, behind him.  But what he encounters here is far worse than anything he was escaping from and the loss that he suffers weighs him down like a too-heavy cloak upon his shoulders.  Kruse becomes tangled in a web of the powerful and corrupt as he tries to make sense of the horror that has unravelled his life.

Babiak has created an intense, face-paced story where the games that politicians play lead to murder and where his protagonist has to dig deep within himself, beyond all loss and pain, to maintain his humanity.