Joanne’s Mystery Picks

911ocyq2szlTHE DARKNESS (HIDDEN ICELAND #1) by Ragnar Jonasson

DI Hulda Hermannsdottir of the Reykajavik Police is months away from retirement when her boss approaches her to say that a replacement has been hired for her position and it would be best if she packed up her belongings and left as soon as possible. Blindsided by this announcement, Hulda begs to remain for a few weeks while she works a cold case.

Hulda does not come across as a particularly nice person and we learn more about her character as the story progresses, reinforcing this feeling about her. Magnus, her boss, is an odious man, and is ambivalent towards Hulda: at the same time that he is praising her for her years of service he’s berating her for her actions in the case she’s currently working.

It’s never certain with a translation whether or not the problems with a story are a result of the translation or if they exist in the original. This novel “reads” well, but the story is so flawed that it’s inconceivable. It’s hard to fathom that a DI would act as Hulda does in this tale, leading up to an ending that is anything but satisfying.

One Dagger
Joanne gives this “1 dagger 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

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

before20the20fall-453Before the Fall
b
y Noah Hawley

Scott Burroughs, a down-on-his-luck painter, is hoping his luck is about to change when he’s offered a seat on a private jet, flying from Martha’s Vineyard to New York.  Sixteen minutes after take-off, he’s floating in the ocean, with only the plane’s debris and a four-year old boy in his grasp.

Hawley devotes a chapter to each character as he systematically sets out the events in each of their lives that eventually lead to the crash of this plane.  It’s a riveting story.  Burroughs, as the hero of this tale, becomes fodder for the media, and it’s his reaction to their questions and the elements that they find to be the most important that had me cheering for him.

Both a great adventure and a riveting commentary on the media and false news, this is one book that’s hard to put down before you reach the last page.

30900530The Shivering Turn by Sally Spencer

Jennie Redhead, private investigator, takes on the case of a missing seventeen-year old girl.  Her mother, Mary Corbet, is certain that her daughter is dead, but the authorities will not take her seriously.  Jennie believes that this is a case of a runaway and agrees to spend a couple of days investigating, just to appease Mary.

However, the further she delves into this disappearance, the more disturbing it becomes.  It’s 1974 and one forgets what a misogynistic society we all lived in back then (though it’s by no means a complete thing of the past).  It’s only Jennie’s self-deprecating sense of humour that eases the way for the reader to take in the shocking details of this case.

Joanne’s Mystery Picks

9781770899568The Couturier of Milan
b
y Ian Hamilton

Ava Lee is at her best in this new tale by Ian Hamilton.  Ava and her partners in the Three Sisters come to the attention of the famous fashion guru, Dominic Ventola when one of their investments – the PO fashion line – is showcased at London Fashion Week.  Ventola is more than impressed and offers to buy the Three Sisters’ stake in the company.  Ava and her partners are not ready to give up control of this line and decline his offer.

Ventola is someone that you do not say no to and he lashes out, making derogatory comments to the Press about this collection, causing many of their customers to pull their orders.

While Ava and her partners fight with guile and cunning to regain their customer base, Ventola retaliates with intimidation and violence.   Having Xu on her side, Ava enters a tug-of-war between opponents in the fashion industry, leading to a dangerous situation when powerful crime syndicates become involved.

More a thriller than a mystery, this novel takes us from Toronto, to Hong Kong, to Milan on an incredibly fast-paced and exciting journey.

https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51SeB0RDm9L._SX328_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgAmong the Ruins
by Ausma Zehanat Khan

After the events that took place in The Language of Secrets Esa Khattak takes a much needed holiday.  He travels to Iran where he connects with his heritage but a holiday of “r and r” is not to be.  He’s approached by a Canadian government agent asking him to investigate the death of a Canadian-Iranian film-maker –  Zahra Sobhani – who was murdered at the infamous Evin prison.  Now if this sounds familiar it’s because Khan’s inspiration for her character, Zahra, was inspired by the real-life murder of Zahra Kazemi, a Canadian-Iranian photojournalist who was murdered outside Evin in 2003.

Khattak is thrust into the politics of the country and is quickly aware of the danger to himself, personally, as he continues his investigation.  Calling on his partner, Rachel Getty back home in Canada, she unearths a possible conspiracy linked to old murders, the Shah of Iran and the Royal Ontario Museum.

This book is rich in language and imagery and provides us with a window into the corruption and fear that surround the regime of this country.