Sunday, January 22, 2017

Storm Cell by Brendan DuBois

First Sentence:  Testifying inside the third-floor courtroom at the Wentworth County Superior Courthouse was the state's deputy chief medical examiner, a plump balding man with a habit of taking a short intake of breath each time he paused between his sentences.
Lewis Cole’s friend Felix Tinios is one trial for first-degree murder.  Rather than being represented by his usual, top-line attorney, he has a public defender, and refuses to see Lewis.  Felix often dances on the wrong side of the law, but this crime scene is way out of character.  Things become even more strange when the FBI approach Cole and ask he help clear his friend before Felix is murdered in prison.
A good opening with a powerful hook is a beautiful thing, and this book has it; especially for those who follow the series.  The book starts placidly enough, for the first few pages, but then it sucker punches you. 
Literary quotes from an author, via a character, are always welcome as they tell us something about both—“Stalin once said ‘Death solves all problems.  No man, no problem.”—and it’s fun to see how they’re worked into the story. Yes, there are portents, several of them, which are annoying.  Yet, one lives in eternal hope that authors will grow past this unnecessary, very irritating device that actually diminishes the suspense, one day.
Dubois’ ensemble of characters is interesting and diverse.  Not only are they real and developed, but they grow and change through time.  They encourage one to follow the series, partly to maintain a relationship with them.  Felix is particularly interesting, in spite of everything.  His description of the changes which occur in towns with the influx of casinos and all that goes with them is well done and rather poignant. 
DuBois as a very good story-telling voice and ability to combine sense of place with a touch of pathos—“A male jogger and then another male jogger went by, dressed in a nice colorful Spandex and both with white earbuds in their ears.  It made me wonder what digital tunes or words were so compelling that they needed to drown out the sound of the crashing waves, the cry of the birds, and the whistling of the wind through the rocks.”
Storm Cell” has very good characters, twists, suspense, and an exciting ending with a dramatic thread causing one to be eager for the next book.

STORM CELL (Lic Inv/Journ-Lewis Cole-Maine-Contemp) – G+
      DuBois, Brendan -
      Pegasus Crime – Nov 2016  

Saturday, January 14, 2017

The Inheritance by Charles Finch

First Sentence:  London was silent with snow, soft flakes of it dropping evenly into the white streets, nobody outside who had somewhere inside to be.
Private Enquiry Agent receives a rather cryptic request for help from an old boarding school friend whom he has not seen for many years.  It was a private bequest which allowed Gerald Leigh to attend Harrow, and now he has been notified of a second, even more generous entitlement.  Leigh has been attacked once and now when they go to question the attorney, they find him murdered.  Between East End gangs, and members of the Royal Society, Lenox has his hands full keeping his friend alive while solving a mystery.
Finch is a wonderfully evocative writer.  From the opening paragraph, you are in the room with Lenox and a scene eminently relatable to anyone who has lived in a snowy climate.  He then sets the stage for suspense and introduced us to the characters, all in a very concise, economical fashion.  Finch is very good at providing background information on the characters as they enter the story.  If one is a fan of British detective shows, one might smile at the character of “Inspector Frost.”
One of the pleasures of reading historicals, is the small bits of information one learns—the genesis of “cabs,” why the English drive on the left while American drive on the right, and the changes brought about in the Victorian age, including fish and chips.  It is also, sadly, interesting to note the disparity between the salaries of man and women, and the conflict between science and politics. To further establish the sense of time, we have mouth-watering descriptions of food—“Baked mullets came out to the table; rissoles, and roast fowl, and macaroni with parmesan cheese, and sea-kale; for dessert there was a laudably enormous charlotte russe placed at the center of each table, with vanilla hard sauce trickling down its sides.”
Dialogue is a strength of Finch’s, particularly that between Lenox and his brother Edmund—“What shall we do now?” Edmund had asked.  “We could have a look around Truro.”  “Yes, that should be a thrilling eight minutes.”          
The Inheritance” is wonderfully done with excellent arcs to the story, with rises and falls in the suspense, and a delightful ending.

THE INHERITANCE (Hist Mys-Charles Lennox-England-1877) – Ex
      Finch, Charles – 10th in series
      Minotaur Books, Nov 2016

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Inherit the Bones by Emily Littlejohn

First Sentence:  In my dreams, the dead can speak.
Deputy Gemma Monroe is still haunted by two young boys who went missing, and whose skeletons she found, years later.  Now, she is called to a traveling circus, and the murder scene of a young man who was thought to have died three years previously.  What happened back then, and why has he turned up now, having completely altered his looks?  The more Gemma digs, the more she finds links from the present to the past and another death of which they were completely unaware was linked.
What an excellent opening.  It is both poignant and memorable.  It also ensures you want to read on.  And isn’t that the purpose of a well-executed hook?
Littlejohn creates a strong sense of place that impacts all the senses but then makes us smile before taking us into the very serious reality of a crime scene.  Littlejohn's voice is very evocative, which is both good and disconcerting.  It is certainly effective.  You really do find you don’t want to stop reading.  I know I’m being repetitive; it’s hard to avoid it.
From the protagonist of Gemma, down to the secondary characters, each character is well-drawn, realistic and fully developed.  One can’t help but love Tilly, the town’s librarian.  She is the perfect light touch to the story. 
Gemma is a particularly appealing protagonist.  She is 6-months pregnant, strong, smart, very capable, admired by her co-workers—well, all but one—and persistent.  Yet her life isn’t idealized, or perfect.  There are definitely issues with which she is dealing.  She is complicated on her own, and we like her all the better for it.
Littlejohn wonderful paints verbal pictures—“His voice was low and sounded like he’d spent some serious time down in the bayou; I heard in the ebb and flow of his words, days spend on shrimping boats, in swampy wetlands, watching shell-pink and blood-orange sunsets over the Gulf.”
The danger and suspense are carefully introduced and slowly escalated, and the path nicely strewn with red herrings.  It’s nice to read a police procedural that is solved by following the clues.  It’s nice to read a resolution to a case that isn’t a cheat, but on that is realistic in today’s system of ‘justice.”
Inherit the Bones” is a very good book, even more so when you consider it is Littlejohn’s first book.  She is an author one certainly may want to follow. 

INHERIT THE BONES (Pol Proc-Deputy Gemma – Colorado-Contemp) – VG+
      Littlejohn, Emily – 1st book
      Minotaur Books, Nov 2016