Category Archives: Mystery

** All By Myself, Alone by Mary Higgins Clark

All By Myself, Alone probably required a good luxury cruise or two to research (do I sense a theme in author research?) and we certainly get treated to the recitation of over-the-top menus and cabin decor. That said, the lady with the emerald necklace is indeed murdered, as the curse of the necklace suggested, and suspects abound, all conveniently traveling on the same ship. I uncharacteristically figured out who did it early on but was very happy to turn the pages all the way to the end, not paying too much attention to the unlikely details. It’s all good fun.

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** Love Like Blood by Mark Billingham

Love Like Blood tackles, a bit awkwardly, the topic of honor killings. The plot is satisfyingly convoluted, with a nice (horrible!) twist at the end; the characters are all complex and interesting; and the action moves steadily. It all makes for a satisfying, if not unforgettable  mystery

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*** What My Body Remembers by Agnete Friis

What My Body Remembers starts like a standard story of a single mother on welfare, struggling to deal with a mysterious psychiatric disorder while trying hard not to allow her son to be taken away from her, but quickly turns into the investigation of the death of her mother, killed when she herself was a little girl, which started her chaotic and violent journey through the foster care system. She will eventually untangle the responsibility of her father, who was convicted of murdering her mother, with the help of various residents of the small village where she grew up — to a dramatic finale.

I had to try hard to ignore the plot holes (would you race to what you know is a very dangerous scene without alerting the police?) but the psychological complications of the plot are delightful.

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* Chaos by Patricia Cornwell

Let’s start with what’s great in Chaos (it will be brief): the forensic details supplied by the heroine, a medical examiner. For the rest, we are treated with a lengthy description of the Harvard Faculty Club to start, apparently to impress upon us the wonderfulness of dining in a hallowed setting where the heroine and her husband are well known and choose fancy wines (so sorry they won’t be able to enjoy any of it since duty calls!) The obsession with status and exclusivity is quite silly and brings little to the plot. And I could not help but notice that the bad guy is an MIT professor, a fired professor but still. Is this a Cambridge versus Cambridge thing?

There is, perhaps obviously, a psychopath in the story, but it is very strange that (1) the heroine does not have more protection since clear threats have been made and (2) the last plot twist at the very end, which I will not reveal since you may want to read this marvelous story based on my glowing review, does not make sense at all. Said psychopath could choose much better methods to inflict mayhem.

Much of the plot revolves, ponderously, around conflicts between the FBI  and the local police (so subtle since the heroine’s husband is a FBI man), which seems to require wasting heaps of taxpayer money to assuage the jealousy of the participants. And this is without mentioning the heroine’s stay in a luxury hotel when she last visited Interpol in Lyon France, a hotel with 12 rooms (I checked!) which functions more as an appendage to a luxury restaurant. Seriously? This continues the I-want-to-impress-with-my-knowledge-of-the-finer-things theme I mentioned earlier and which I enjoyed so much.

There is a corpse, or two, and the villains are properly caught and punished so standard fare and nothing particularly creative.

In case it was not clear, I do not recommend this book. (Don’t despair, I did read a good mystery this week; watch this space on Friday.)

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*** Saratoga Payback by Stephen Dobyns

Saratoga Payback is the entertaining story of a private investigator who, having had his license revoked, just cannot turn off his investigative instinct. And of course a corpse on his driveway  is irresistible. He will be drawn into mysterious horse abductions and many more murders until the breath-taking finale. But the best part of the book is the self-talk and private life of our hero, with his aging knees, self-deprecating humor, and complicated relationship with the police chief.

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* Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter

Say you just found out that a psychopath made snuff films and the police officer to whom you reported your discovery (complete with abundant copies of said films) nonchalantly sent you away and told you not to worry your pretty little head. What would you do? (I know the premise is far-fetched but work with me.)

(A) Contact other and/or more powerful police authorities

(B) Get help from trusted friends and family

(C) Drive, unescorted, to the psychopath house, which is isolated out in the country, to see what you find

The heroines of Pretty Girls pick (C) and what follow is terrifying, but what terrified me the most was their stupidity. And also the amount of gratuitous details from the snuff films. And the ending that suggested that killing psychopaths yourself was better than using normal law and order avenues.

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*** Things We Have In Common by Tasha Kavanagh

I’m going to say that Thing We Have In Common is a mystery, since it contains a crime, and a serious one, the disappearance of a teenager, but the focus is on one of her classmates, a fat, friendless, and bullied classmate who is fascinated by the popular girl and convinced that a mysterious man is watching her and may bring her harm. The action is mostly in the girl’s mind, with short interactions with her mother and stepfather — and eventually the police. The peculiar logic of teenagers is perfectly captured, all the way to the disturbing, unsettled ending.

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