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

19169387RAGE AGAINST THE DYING by Becky Masterman

Brigid Quinn is an ex-FBI agent who is trying to start a new life for herself, hard as it might be.  Let’s face it, she’s really not the “baking muffins” and “sewing slipcovers” type of woman so adjusting to domesticity sometimes takes its toll on her.  And then there is the one case that always comes back to haunt her – the one that she never solved.  And now someone has come forward to confess to this crime – the disappearance and presumed murder of Brigid’s protégé, Jessica.

Floyd Lynch’s confession just doesn’t ring true for the new agent on the case – Laura Coleman.  Can he really be responsible for the murders of so many women along the famous “Route 66” and is Jessica’s body somewhere along that long highway? Brigid can’t help but insinuate herself into this investigation even though she’s no longer an agent and has no authorization to do so.

The descriptions of the murders in this novel take on a salacious tone and edge toward sensationalism.  Like Floyd Lynch’s confession, many of Brigid’s reactions to events just don’t ring true.  In real life, I just don’t see people acting the way they are portrayed in this novel.  Here they are no more than stereotypes and show very little resemblance to real people.

This is considered a thriller but I’d rather get my thrills by reading something more plausible and better written than this novel.  There are many of those to choose from.

Joanne’s Mystery Picks

51o0hzylgrl-_sx329_bo1204203200_I LET YOU GO by Clare Mackintosh

This debut novel by Clare Mackintosh shows how the lives of so many people can change in a split second. A five year old boy, Jacob, is standing on the curb with his mom and a split-second later he’s under the wheels of a car that quickly backs up and drives away. His death rips Jenna Gray’s world to pieces and there will never be any peace for her unless she escapes: unless she runs away.   And run she does – to a small little village in Wales where she can grieve in peace and begin to heal.

This story is told from the point of view of three of the main characters: Jenna, Ray (the detective investigating the hit and run case), and Ian, whose relationship to Jenna is gradually explained to us.

As the painstaking investigation reaches the first year anniversary date and the team is no closer in identifying the driver of the car, they are told to log the case as “unsolved” and turn their attention to more current cases.

And then comes the twist in the story, completely blind-siding me, and the novel takes an abrupt turn and heads off in a completely new direction.

It’s been awhile since I’ve read anything with such a clever plot-twist, and this proceeded to be a “can’t put down until it’s finished” read.

Well-plotted, believable characters, and a memorable setting.  What more could one ask for in a mystery?  Nothing.  This book has it all.

Joanne’s Mystery Picks

13009223-_uy200_EXIT STRATEGY by Kelley Armstrong

Nadia Stafford, ex-cop, divides her time between her nature lodge in Northern Ontario and her off-season job as a hitman for a Mafia family.  She needs this job because the money keeps her lodge going.  She’s smart, resilient, self-sufficient, and instantly likeable.

When one of her contacts recruits her to help track down a serial killer whose victims appear to be randomly selected, she teams up with Jack (her mentor) and his team.  Nadia is quick to pick up on the manipulating character of one of the team members and stands her ground against her.

As the team follows the killer around the U.S., he is always just one step ahead of them.  It doesn’t take long for them to clue-in that this killer is one of them.  And so they need to revise their plan to neutralize him and start thinking like they would if the roles were reversed.

Armstrong has created a strong female protagonist, fully-fleshed and believable.  She still has her vulnerabilities but is pretty adept at keeping them hidden.  With Nadia Stafford, she’s created a character who we want to learn more about.

Join me and many others on Saturday, October 28 at 7 pm at SAPL as we sit and listen to this award-winning STARFest author talk about this series and the many others that she’s brought to the page.

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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!