Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Triple Jeopardy by Anne Perry

First Sentence:  Daniel rang the doorbell, then stepped back.
Jemima Pitt has returned to England with her American policeman husband Patrick.  As well as visiting the Pitt family, they’ve come to ask a favor of her brother Daniel, now a lawyer.  British Diplomat Philip Sidney attacked Jemima's friend, Rebecca, in her bedroom and stole a necklace whilst Philip was stationed in Washington, D.C.  Under protection of diplomatic immunity, he returned to England.  Jemima and Patrick want Daniel's help in bringing Sidney to justice.  Brought up on charges of embezzlement, Sidney asks Daniel to represent him.  After a murder back in Washington, and the possibility of the case becoming a major international incident, Daniel, along with forensic scientist Mariam fford Croft, travel to the Channel Island to learn the truth.
One often worries as to what an author will do when the protagonist of a long-running series ages.  Ms. Perry solved the problem by having the protagonist's children age as well and now, for the second time, we have Daniel Pitt stepping into the foreground.  So as not to lose readers, new or old, Perry summarizes the backgrounds of the members of the Pitt family.  This is particularly helpful to those who are new to Anne Perry's very well-done historical mysteries.
The story, quite appropriately, raises the issue of prejudice against Jews and the Irish, the latter seamlessly incorporated by the fact of Rebecca's husband, and Daniel's brother-in-law, both being of Irish heritage.  That there is a role-reversal between Jemima and Patrick when discussing Rebecca's situation is interesting and very well done.  Penny does a masterful job of presenting both sides of the situation and its possible outcome.  Moreover, she places doubts in one's mind regarding the motives and possible guilt of the characters.  There is so much "here" here.
Perry can make even basic English cooking sound delicious—"Lamb chops; the freshest of peas, as mild and delicate as possible, with a little mint and plenty of butter, and boiled potatoes." However, the transition from food to a very astute observation—"Have you noticed how often it is not the crime or the disaster of a scandal that brings down an otherwise great man, but the lies he tells to avoid admitting it?"—is extremely well done.
Perry's characters are some of the most fully-developed one will find. Each has complexity and definition.  Even the most severe of them can occasionally make one smile; if not at a bit of dialogue, then at the very human attributes.  Mariam fford Croft is one such character and, true to form, only Perry could create such a strong connection between two characters without its being romantic.
The occasional bon mot lightens a scene—"Not another corpse to dig up, I trust?  You're a little early.  We don't do that sort of thing until midnight.  It tends to disturb the locals." Those are balanced by ideas that make one stop and consider—"We all make mistakes, Jem.  It's how we live with them afterward that matters.  Accept that we really were wrong, don't make excuses or blame anyone else.  The moment you say 'I was wrong' you can begin to move on."
"Triple Jeopardy" is an extremely well-done story of families, loyalty, and betrayal.  Filled with excellent characters, it is brought to a dramatic and explosive conclusion.

TRIPLE JEOPARDY (HistMys-Daniel Pitt-London-1910) - VG
      Perry, Anne – 2nd in series
      Ballentine Books – April 2019

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Black and Blue by David Rosenfelt

First Sentence:  I feel like a jerk.
A single shot to the heart from a high-powered distance made from a distance killed Walter Brookings 18 months ago.  The case, investigated by Doug Brock, remained unsolved and went cold.  Now, there's a second murder; same M.O. and even the forensics match.  The difference is that Brock suffers partial amnesia from a gunshot to the head.  He survived, but not all of his memory did.  With the help of his partner, and girlfriend Jessica, who is also on the force, Brock is not only investigating the new case, but digging back into the previous case as well.
Partial amnesia is always an interesting subject and an excellent hook for a protagonist.  However, it takes more than that for a book to be compelling, and Rosenfelt delivers.
A very nice cross-over into Rosenlfelt's Carpenter series is done by brining in the characters of police Captain Pete Stanton, as well as attorney Andy Carpenter and Vince Sanders, editor of the local paper.  There is an arrogance to Brock which can be annoying, but it's nicely balanced by self-doubt—"…the two guys that I shot were apparently total scumbags who had themselves committed murder.  But even so, I took their lives, and it somehow seems weirdly disrespectful that I have no recollection of doing so."
Multiple points of view can be awkward, but Rosenfelt makes them work.  However, one of his greatest skills is the ever-escalating level of suspense and that he keeps one guessing with lots of twists along the way.
"Black and Blue" has a cleverly done plot that makes sense once it's all put together.  Rosenfelt takes the suspense right down to the wire and gives one a captivating, gripping read.

BLACK & BLUE (PolProc-Doug Brock-New Jersey-Contemp) - VG
      Rosenfelt, David – 3rd in series
      Minotaur Books, March 2019

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Holy Ghost by John Sandford

First Sentence:  Wardell Holland, the mayor of Wheatfield, Minnesota was sitting in the double-wide he rented from his mother, a Daisy Match Grade pellet rifle in his hands, shooting flies.
The population and economy of Wheatfield, Minnesota has seen incredible growth since the floating image of the Virgin Mary began to appear in the Catholic church.  That's not the only thing to appear.  While the apparition brings the town back to life, what they hadn't planned on was a sniper and the arrival of Agent Virgil Flowers from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.
It's an unusual thing for an author to compare and contrast the odors of animal excrement, but it is indicative of Sandford's style and humor. While one is not given a long backstory, there is just enough information to know who are the characters.  There is no prologue, no lamenting past cases; one can start with this, the 11th book in the series, and be just fine.
Sandford's characters are a pleasure to read.  They are people--individuals--and it's interesting that there's no obvious bad guy.  Odd as it sounds, some of the most enjoyable characters are the "Nazis."  There is a lot of information on guns—can you say "filler"— than is really needed.             
Even if one hasn't read John Connolly, a very good author of horror, one can appreciate Sanford's reference to Connolly's book Every Dead Thing—"Good thing we're going to talk to heavily armed Nazis 'cause now I can quit reading this book.  It's scaring the hell out of me.' Such passages add realism and humor to the story.  Even food becomes an object of humor as it is the antithesis of what may be found in other books.
The pace picks up significantly and the question of que bono, who benefits, arises.  The ending was a bit of a cheat, but epilogue is wonderful.
"Holy Ghost" is a fun, easy read.  It's a perfect weekend or airplane book.  Overall the book really was enjoyable, and makes one want to read more books in the series.

HOLY GHOST (PolProc-Virgil Flowers-Minnesota-Contemp) - Good
      Sandford, John – 11th in series
      G.P. Putnam's Sons – Oct 2018

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

A Deadly Turn by Clare Booth

First Sentence:  He walked casually up to the car.
Branson County Sheriff Hank Worth stops a car with six teens clearly out for a joy ride.  He lets them go with a warning only to receive a call a short time later of a serious traffic accident and arrives to find all six kids dead.  The closer Hank looks at the scene, the more he questions whether it was an accident, or whether foul play was involved.
Booth does an excellent job of conveying the devastation and guilt Hank feels, while creating excellent characters to back him up.  Booth does a good job of introducing one character who transforms fairly quickly.  That Booth provides a short biography on each of the victims adds verisimilitude; they aren't characters, they are victims. 
This is a book where a cast of characters would have been particularly helpful.  There is a multitude of officers from a multitude of agencies not always working with those in their own agency.  It can have the feel of musical chairs at times, including with the families of the victims and others.  However, one thing is that Booth's characters do ring true in all ways.
It's nice how quickly the anomalies begin to appear and give the sense that the accident is more than it first seems.  In the end, it's good, old-fashioned police work, following the clues, and an exciting car chase that solves the crime.  

That there is an unnecessary, unrelated cliffhanger at the end was annoying.  One may also wish to start the series at the beginning rather than with this, the third book, in order to have a better understanding of the characters.
"A Deadly Turn" is a good read with plenty of twists and turns.  Sheriff Hank Worth could easily join one's list of favorite characters.  

A DEADLY TURN (PolProc-Sheriff Hank Worth-Missouri-Contemp)-G+
      Booth, Claire – 3rd in series
      Severn House Digital – March 2019

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Wolf Pack by C.J. Box

First Sentence:  For Wyoming Game Warden Katelyn Hamm, April really was the cruelest month.
Game Warden Joe Pike has his job back, a new house, and another new truck. He and neighboring game warden Katelyn Hamm also have a big problem with someone using a large drone to kill herds of animals.  It becomes more complicated when Joe learns that Lucy, one of his daughters is dating the son of the very wealthy man named Hill who owns the drone, and when Joe receives orders from above to leave Hill alone.  The drone is the least of the problems when it is suspected that four killers, known as the Wolf Pack, of the Sinaloa cartel, are in the area, and are after Hill and anyone who gets in their way.
One always learns new things when reading Box.  It's fascinating to know about the value of antlers and the horrible damage to a herd of deer caused by unscrupulous antler collectors.  It's an industry with regulations of which we would not otherwise know. 
Box creates such fascinating characters.  Certainly, there are the recurring characters of Joe, his family, falconer Nate Romanowski and his now pregnant fiance Liz, but it's extra nice to have the female game warder of Katelyn.  Joe is such a well-constructed character.  That he and his wife Marybeth have such a strong relationship and partnership where she, at times, provides Joe with informational assistance, gives further dimension to both characters.  Although Nate may refer to him as "Dudley-Do-Right," Joe is no one's fool. Underestimating him is a mistake and things can get "Western" very quickly.   On the other side, the head of the Wolf Pack is as nasty a character as nasty can get. 
From the very start, Box creates a sense of threat.  The plot is as one is on a roller-coaster ride.  There are fairly gentle rises and falls, then huge escalations, heart-stopping drops, flat runs for relief, and then we're off again.  Box knows how to plot.  He's an expert at linking aspects of the story together in ways one doesn't expect.  Even seemingly innocent scenes have an overlay of danger to them.  The escalation of tension is palpable to the point where one may even mutter "No, don't go." as if watching a movie.  One is definitely never bored.
"Wolf Pack" is a high-energy, edge-of-seat book.  There is divine retribution and an ending that is very emotional and somewhat bittersweet. Fair warning that this book is more violent, with more bodies, than some of the past books in the series, but it's an excellent read. 

WOLF PACK (LicInv/Game Warder-Joe Pike-Wyoming-Contemp) - Ex
      Box, C.J. – 19th in series
      G.P. Putnam's Sons – March 2019