Detective and mystery stories
Arnaldur Indridason's Jar City: A Reykjavik Thriller, the first of a series starring Inspector Erlendur, is a gripping crime novel set in the insular world of Reykjavik, Iceland, where the climate is unforgiving and murder is a relatively rare phenomenon.
An elderly man, Holberg, is found murdered in his city flat, and, unlike most murders in Iceland that are crimes of passion, Erlendur and his colleagues Sigrinudur Oli and Elinborg quickly realize that this is not going to be a typical murder investigation, especially since the only clues are a cryptic note stating, “I am HIM” and the photograph of a young girl’s grave.
White Heat, an intriguing and well-researched book about life on an island near the cold, cold, cold Arctic Circle, has been a real treat this summer for this reader who doesn’t like enduring 100-degree temperatures. Thank you, M. J. McGrath! I appreciated the icy coolness and the great story.
The star of this excellently-plotted mystery is Edie Kiglaluk, a divorced, recovering alcoholic who hires out as a hunting guide to those from the “south” who want the experience of roughing it in a tough terrain. Edie is a tenacious young Inuit woman who just can’t seem to be a go-along sort of person in her community. Her closest friend is her stepson, Joe.
My son and I were discussing books the other day, and he asked me, “Would you recommend a book in a blog that you didn’t completely love?” I thought for a minute and said, “No”. He asked why not, and I replied, “What if someone noticed the blog who didn’t love books? What if they just wanted to try reading a book for the first time in a long while? I couldn’t recommend a book that I thought maybe they would like or maybe not. I have to feel strongly about the book. I want people to love books as much as I do.”
Nocturnal, by Scott Sigler, is a detective novel that involves the supernatural. So if you love both genres as I do, this is a glorious combination. The characters are so well-developed that several reviewers described this novel as Sigler’s attempt to write like Stephen King. I don't know if that is true, but I just think that Sigler has always been known as a fast-paced horror writer. In Nocturnal he adds more character and depth to the plot.
Carlos Ruiz Zafón completely understands what it means to be seduced by a book--to get lost in a plot and feel overwhelmed by perfectly-formed words and phrases. Perhaps that is what allows him to describe--and replicate--that experience in his own novel, The Shadow of the Wind.
The Shadow of the Wind opens in Barcelona in 1945. Daniel Sempere’s father is about to introduce him to a mysterious and labyrinthine place called the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. In the Cemetery, the young boy is taught some very important things about the lives of books: “Every book, every volume you see here, has a soul. The soul of the person who wrote it and of those who read it and lived and dreamed with it. Every time a book changes hands, every time someone runs his eyes down its pages, its spirit grows and strengthens.”
Set in the first decade of the 20th century, In the Shadow of Gotham, by Stefanie Pintoff, combines the atmosphere of a gothic novel with the more invigorating pace of a police procedural. Simon Ziele has buried himself in a quiet town in Westchester County to escape the memory of his lost love. He was an up-and-coming detective in the New York City police force when tragedy drove him to seek a quieter position, far away from the violence of Manhattan’s darker quarters.
And yet, when the call came to investigate a murder at the home of one of Westchester’s finest families, Detective Ziele is drawn in by duty to find out who killed the lovely, young mathematics genius in such a shocking and brutal way before it happens again.
It’s 1900, and lovely, smart Hilda Johansson is one of many immigrants working as live-in servants to rich households in Southbend, Indiana. In Jeanne M. Dams’ Death in Lacquer Red, Hilda has a pleasant if strenuous life, working hard to save money to bring her other family members over from Sweden. She is being courted by a handsome Irish fireman who won’t let the fact that their families wouldn’t approve--he’s Catholic and she’s Lutheran--get in the way of the romance. Even so, a dead body in the lilac bushes does put a damper on their day out together.
Harley Day was a mean, shiftless, good-for-nothing drunk. He regularly beat up on his wife and kids. So when he was found frozen to death in a snowbank outside his house, no one seemed to mourn. After all, The Old Buzzard Had It Coming--which is the title of the first Alafair Tucker mystery by Donis Casey.
Set in 1912, this book introduces Alafair Tucker, who lives with her husband and nine children on the Oklahoma frontier. It's an interesting look at frontier life at the beginning of the 20th century. Some of the details seem so modern, but much of the day-to-day life for a frontier ranching family seems like unbelievable deprivation and hardship 100 years on.
Ryan Dooley has always been in trouble. Victim Rights, by Norah McClintock, tells of his journey from one side of the law to the other. Dooley, as he prefers to be called, had a hard life growing up. He was forced to try to care for his mother, all the while taking care of himself because no one else was able to take care of him. However, when his ex-cop uncle found him in a juvenile detention center, he offers him an ultimatum. If Dooley will stay out of trouble, his uncle will provide for him until he turns eighteen in a couple months.
The last thing editorial assistant Billy Webb expected to stumble upon in his new job was an unsolved murder. But when fellow employee Mona Minot approaches him about references to something deadly in the company’s research files, Billy is immediately intrigued. And thus the two begin their amateur sleuthing in Emily Arsenault’s novel The Broken Teaglass.
A nubile co-ed is missing from the same small, rural Mississippi town where another young woman had disappeared twenty-five years earlier—the mystery unsolved, her body never found. So begins Tom Franklin’s stellar novel, Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter.
Socially-awkward Larry Ott was 16 years old when Cindy Walker, both beautiful and popular, asked him out on a date. That momentous occasion—at least through Larry’s eyes—was the point when his young life began a downward slide from which it would not recover. Walker was never seen again. Although no evidence was ever found connecting him to the girl’s disappearance, the townspeople unanimously convicted Larry without the benefit of any trial. Shunned and taunted, he became the local pariah.