Category Archives: Mystery

*** The Legal Limit by Martin Clark

The Legal Limit stars two brothers raised by a brutal father. One has lapsed into drug dealing and the occasional killing; the other is a judge, vaulted into middle-class respectability but with a streak of wildness, well hidden. The drug-dealer brother’s eagerness to escape a long prison sentence he mostly brought on himself leads him to threaten his brother in ways that place his whole life in danger. The story takes us over the course of many years, and the reader may have been better served by an abrupt switch from the distant, secret past to the present, but it’s an engrossing story with complex characters and plenty of gray areas.

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** A Better Man by Louise Penny

A Better Man takes us to Montreal, Quebec, where spring flooding may overwhelm the province, political intrigue swirls in the homicide department, and a man seems to have killed his pregnant wife, although no body has been recovered. The hero needs to solve the murder, get used to work for his son-in-law, and, as a side project, dynamite some ice dams so the province does not go entirely under water. It’s a bit too much, even if the intrigue is very twisted and the interactions between characters finely observed and rendered. It’s exciting but I found it best not to think too hard about the plot.

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** Lady in the Lake by Laura Lippman

The Lady in the Lake is a dead woman, but the story is not about her, but rather about the journalist who, recently separated from her husband and the life of a wealthy Jewish matron, is trying to make a name for herself while pursuing a secret affair with an African-American police officer and taking some liberties with the truth.

The story progresses through chapters written from different characters’ perspectives, including a waitress, a murderous pet-store owner, and a baseball player. Good idea, although a little tiresome over the long run. The story does seem a little over-designed to meet today’s tastes for liberated women (it’s set in the late sixties), and the ending felt entirely too contrived for my taste, but it is enjoyable most of the way through.

 

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*** The Substitution Order by Martin Clark

The Substitution Order is an enjoyable romp around the law and lawyers, centered around a hapless once-successful lawyer who did a little too much cocaine and finds himself working in a sub-par sandwich shop and threatened by big money. His vengeance is worthy of the early Grisham novels.

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*** Conviction by Denise Mina

The heroine of Conviction has built herself a quiet life under an assumed identity after a horrible teenage assault when that new life explodes, and she finds herself on a quest to solve a multiple murder. It will take her overseas and against her arch-enemy, all in a droll and understated whirlwind. I have only one nit: there is certainly no bouillabaisse served in the small island off the coast of Bordeaux where the murders took place (and the geography in Lyon assumes the train station is the old train station, I think!)  But the plot is wonderful otherwise.

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*** Big Sky by Kate Atkinson

The hero of Big Sky, a retired police detective turned private investigator, is struggling with his teenage son, his son’s mother, and a mysterious contract with a woman whose past is coming back to destroy the apparently perfect life and family she has acquired. There’s a very dark child trafficking ring that needs dismantling, and he will do it.

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*** The Golden Tresses of the Dead by Alan Bradley

 

Flavia de Luce returns with The Golden Tresses of the Dead, which starts with a macabre discovery in her sister’s wedding cake and ends with suspicious evangelizing nuns. Dogger, the shell-shocked gardener, has become her partner in her official private investigation venture and serves as a wonderful foil and mentor.

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