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

51fgzw0h0ll-_sx322_bo1204203200_THE DELICATE STORM  by Giles Blunt

Blunt’s second novel in the John Cardinal and Lisa Delorme series, though gruesome in its description of the crimes, is not as soul-destroying as that of his first:  Forty Words for Sorrow.

When an unidentified, dismembered body is found in the woods, it is evident that bears have been at work on it but not before someone made sure that this person would never again hear the wind whistling through the trees.  Thus begins an investigation to find the identity of the victim and his murderer.  Information surfaces concerning cases from the past and the two detectives soon find themselves enmeshed in a political quagmire.

Cardinal is able to focus on the case much more readily now that his homelife has settled down since Catherine’s bipolar disorder is under control.  However, his Dad is having health issues and it’s a fight to get him to see a doctor.

With the introduction of WUDKY (the dumbest criminal in the world), we are given a moment or two of comic relief in this sometimes confusing story.  The ending left me disappointed and questioning Blunt’s motivation in concluding the book in the way that he did.

Joanne’s Mystery Pick

s-l225THE BLACK CAT by Martha Grimes

For the past year, I’ve been reading Grimes’ Richard Jury novels in order and for the most part they’ve provided a good read.  Throughout the series, certain cases have taken their toll on Jury and he reflects upon them in subsequent novels.  I like to think that this makes him appear more “human” and believable as a character.  The Black Cat continues a story arc started two novels previously in The Old Wine Shades and the following novel, Dust, with the character Harry Johnson.  As a villain, Harry’s a pretty likeable guy, until you remember what he’s accused of doing.  Jury knows he’s guilty of horrible crimes but just cannot get the goods on him.  Harry sits at the periphery of the main stories in The Black Cat (a woman is found murdered in the garden of a pub of the same name and only a cat is witness to the crime); and Dust (a wealthy bachelor is murdered in his hotel room).

Some might call Grimes’ novels formulaic with the ever-present young, precocious child and her cat or dog; Melrose Plant’s bumbling about as a gardener, or a scholar (of Henry James, no less, in Dust); and the ubiquitous cups of tea that Wiggins’ partakes of at every stop along the way of whichever case they’re working on.  I like the humour that these things bring to the novels and often find myself laughing out loud.  They help to down-play some of the more gritty bits that we’re exposed to.

Will Jury finally get his man and have enough evidence to arrest Harry Johnson?  I do hope so because he should never get away with what he’s done.  Perhaps that evidence will be produced in Vertigo 42, Grimes’ most recent novel in this series.  I’ll be reading it with baited breath!

Joanne’s Mystery Picks

9781782062080EXTRAORDINARY PEOPLE: ENZO FILES #1 by Peter May

 It all starts with a wager to prove that a cold case can be solved with new scientific methods. Enzo Macleod, forensic scientist, jumps at the chance to solve the disappearance of Jacques Gaillard, former advisor to the Prime Minister, who went missing ten years previously.  Using the information that Roger Raffin, journalist and author of a book on the seven highest profile unsolved murders has compiled, Enzo follows a trail that begins with doodles on a pad of paper. As each clue takes him to a cache of other clues, his search takes on the feel of a scavenger hunt, leading him to the countryside around Paris.

Hovering in the background is Enzo’s constant worry about his two daughters.  He’s estranged from his eldest and worried that his youngest is throwing her life away on a guy with no future.  His worry is intensified when he realizes that his search might be putting his own family in danger.

May has written a good puzzler with interesting descriptions of Paris and its environs.  It’s only when the last piece of the puzzle is put in place that the true picture comes into focus.

jar-cityJar City by Arnaldur Indridason

When Inspector Erlendur of the Reykjavik police is called to the apartment of Holberg, an old man, he finds him dead, the apparent victim of a murder.

As he begins his investigation, Erlendur discovers that the reasons for Holberg’s murder date back many years and may include the twenty five year old disappearance of a co-worker, and the non-criminal death of a seven year old girl.

Arnaldur Indridason’s novel (translated from the Icelandic) has been critically acclaimed and has garnered him a Gold Dagger Award.  Based on these criteria, one could assume that he is a “good” writer.  This certainly doesn’t come across in my reading of this mystery.

I found the writing to be stilted and choppy, with no fluidity between sentences.  There were no gentle segues between scene changes and I noticed a number of inconsistencies in the details as the story unfolded.  Missing were those nuances that flesh out a character –humour, compassion, and kindness.  The characters didn’t have conversations with each other, but shouting matches instead. Erlendur’s daughter, a drug-addict, was particularly unlikeable and the way that she talked to her father was beyond disrespectful.  The comments that the coroner made during the autopsy of a seven year old girl were more than insensitive: they were absolutely despicable, and I found this scene to be very disturbing.  (Bernard Scudder, Translator)

Joanne’s Mystery Picks

mistletoe-science-631__800x600_q85_cropTHE MISTLETOE MURDER AND OTHER STORIES by P.D. James

In “The Mistletoe Murder”, a crime novelist recounts the details of a murder that she was involved in fifty years previously.

In “A Very Commonplace Murder”, a filing clerk recounts his reasons for not coming forward as a witness to a murder.

Two of the stories in this collection feature Adam Dalgliesh.  In “The Twelve Clues of Christmas” he’s a newly promoted Sergeant, where even at this early point in his career, his perspicacity is evident as he gathers information from an unseemly group of family members while their Uncle lies dead in his bed, of an apparent suicide.

In “The Boxdale Inheritance”, Dalgliesh is asked by his godfather to reinvestigate a sixty-seven year old murder that involves a family member.

Each of the four short stories in this collection is an absolute gem.

They contain many of the elements of P.D. James’ work that we’ve come to admire: her wit, her cleverness, and her understanding of human nature.

Each story is a carefully-plotted sumptuous little mystery.