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Calgary author, J.E. Barnard, won the 2016 Unhanged Arthur Ellis Award for the Best Unpublished First Crime Novel for her mystery When the Flood Falls.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

36204075THE WORD IS MURDER by Anthony Horowitz

Anthony Horowitz is a multi-talented author and screenwriter.  He’s the creator and writer of the TV series Foyle’s War and has contributed scripts to Agatha Christie’s Poirot and Midsomer Murders.  His mystery and suspense novels for adults are cleverly plotted, and he has a large following of young adult readers for his Alex Rider series and The Power of Five series.

The novel begins when Diana Cowper walks into a funeral parlor to plan her own service.   Little does she know how timely her visit will be, for a mere six hours later she is found dead – strangled – in her own home.  Daniel Hawthorne, a strange and eccentric police investigator is given the case.

Hawthorne is set on having his life and work documented as he goes about his investigations and he chooses Anthony Horowitz to act as his ghost writer!  So here we have the “real” Horowitz as a character in his own book.  At times the reader has to sort out if what Horowitz is alluding to is in this book’s plot or something in his real life, which makes for very interesting reading.

At times amusing, this novel provides enough twists and turns and a simply brilliant ending to please even the most critical reader.  This is Horowitz at his best.

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

original_400_600WILD FIRE by Ann Cleeves

In the Acknowledgements, prior to the beginning of this book, Cleeves states that this is the last Shetland novel that she’ll write.  For the reader, this means that she needs to wrap up the stories about Jimmy Perez and his team.

This novel is all about dysfunctional relationships and families and I felt that the characters were simply shadows on the page – even Jimmy Perez wasn’t fully formed and we “know” him.   When the body of a young nanny is found hanging in the barn of recent newcomers to the island, the gossip about her and the families involved, takes off like “wild fire”.  Jimmy, along with his boss, Willow Reeves, has to sort out the truth from the lies and innuendo while dealing with their own fractured relationship.

The investigation into this incident is haphazard, darting here and there without any real pattern.  Leads are quickly acted on, then simply dropped when someone else comes forward with information, never again to be pursued.  The solution appears contrived and leads the reader to ask “how did we get here?”

This is certainly a disappointing ending to a series that I’ve enjoyed reading through eight novels.  Maybe it’s just as well that it’s the last installment.


Joanne’s Mystery Picks

519iq0zzdul-_sx330_bo1204203200_THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW by A. J. Finn

Think “Rear Window” (Alfred Hitchcock’s 1954 mystery thriller movie), and you’ve got the premise of this novel.  However, there’s more to this story than the one that Hitchcock told.

Anna Fox is a child psychologist who has become a recluse in her own home.  She’s plagued by agoraphobia and can only cope through drink and watching old movies.  That is until she sees something through her window that makes her question her own reality.  Of course she’s not believed – not by the police, not by her doctor, and not by anyone else.  In fact, she herself gradually begins to think that whatever she “saw” actually wasn’t real and in trying to dismiss it has no idea of how much danger she is in.  This is a gripping, intense novel, where reality and imagination are tipped on their respective heads.

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

51mfa84sb9l-_sx327_bo1204203200_THE DRY by Jane Harper

Aaron Falk, a Federal Police investigator, returns to the farming community of Kiewarra in Australia, twenty years after he and his father left under a cloud of suspicion.  He has come back to attend the funeral of his childhood friend, Luke Hadler, who along with his wife and child have been found brutally slain.  The community believes that the drought that has ravaged the countryside is the culprit in these deaths – that it drove Luke to kill his family and then to kill himself.  Luke’s parents think differently and implore Aaron to investigate further.

Aaron knows that in doing so, the secrets that he’s lived with for twenty years will surface, and that they will re-awaken the animosity of the folk who were his neighbours back then.  As he probes into the lives of Luke, his family, and the townsfolk of Kiewarra, far more secrets are unearthed along with the terrible lies that have destroyed so many people.

An atmospheric, intense and moving story, The Dry is sure to stay with the reader for a long while.

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

Joanne’s Mystery Picks

51pevt0wznlI AM WATCHING YOU by Teresa Driscoll

While on her way to attend a conference, Ella Longfield overhears two young men, recently released from prison, chatting-up two girls on the train.  Should she alert someone?  Try to contact their parents?  Does she have an obligation to do something?  These questions will stay with her for a very long time as the next day the news is full of the story of one of the girls having gone missing.

As the one-year anniversary of the disappearance of Anna Ballard approaches, Ella is still wracked with guilt and is now getting ugly and threatening letters.  And then those secrets that everyone tries to hide start to be revealed, as the police concentrate on Anna’s family.

As a thriller, this was a good page-turner.  However, I could have done without the occasional commentary by the creepy “watcher”.  The story could have unfolded on its own without these episodes and would have been a better novel for it.

2 daggers
Joanne gives this “2 daggers out of 5”

Joanne’s Mystery Picks

morse562THE REMORSEFUL DAY by Colin Dexter

If you’re like me and count the days (which are actually months or years), until the next book in the particular series that you’re reading, there’s something to be said for going back and re-reading that series, chronologically, from the very beginning.  This works particularly well if the series is complete, finished, with no further episodes to be written.  This is what I recently did with Dexter’s Inspector Morse series.  With only 13 books in the series, it certainly wasn’t an onerous undertaking.

What I gained by reading these books back-to-back, was a new appreciation for Dexter’s cunning and brilliance at creating this much-loved character (characters if you count Lewis – and one should!).  With each successive book Morse moves from a one-dimensional character to someone full-formed.  The reader begins to understand how his mind works and how his history has shaped him into the person he has become.

In The Remorseful Day, Morse is both at his finest and at his worst.  His mind is still so very sharp as his body begins to fail him.  But Morse certainly doesn’t fail those with whom he’s worked so closely with over all the years of his career.  In fact, he does the opposite – he saves them.

In reference to this final Morse novel, Beryl Bainbridge says: “What construction!  What skill!  Why isn’t this author ever on the Booker shortlist?”  Yes – he should have been, for this is truly a brilliant piece of writing.

5 daggers
Joanne gives this “5 daggers out of 5”.

Check out Joanne’s other Inspector Morse reviews: Last Bus to Woodstock, The Dead of Jericho