Tag: Book Review

#MurderMondays: Fallout by Sara Paretsky

Book Summary

Before there was Lisbeth Salander, before there was Stephanie Plum, there was V.I. WARSHAWSKI. To her parents, she’s Victoria Iphigenia. To her friends, she’s Vic. But to clients seeking her talents as a detective, she’sV.I. And her new case will lead her from her native Chicago… and into Kansas, on the trail of a vanished film student and a faded Hollywood star.

Accompanied by her dog, Peppy, V.I. tracks her quarry through a university town, across fields where missile silos once flourished — and into a past riven by long-simmering racial tensions, a past that holds the key to the crimes of the present. But as the mysteries stack up, so does the body count. And in this, her toughest case, not even V.I. is safe.

What I thought

FALLOUT is Sara Paretsky’s 18th novel in the V. I. Warshawski detective novel series. And instead of being at home, in the safe and familiar confines of Chicago, Paretsky has Vic off on a road trip to Lawrence, Kansas. Vic has been hired by her wayward niece, and in-training hockey player, Bernadine ‘Bernie’ Fouchard, to look for her friend, August Veriden, who is missing after being accused of ransacking the gym where he worked.

But, as anyone who reads Paretsky’s Warshawski series knows, everything is never as it seems. 

It turns out, Veriden left Chicago with ageing black actress, Emerald Ferring, ostensibly to film Ferring’s ‘origins’ documentary. But, somewhere along the road, the two have gone missing. 

This is the set-up to have Vic follow their route, and uncover more than she bargained for. For Lawrence, Kansas, where the University of Kansas is located, has more buried secrets than the CIA. And as Vic digs into the pair’s mysterious disappearance, she starts to uncover layers of deceit, lies, moral ambiguity and ultimately, a cover-up worthy of Watergate that puts Vic in the line of fire.

Every character in this book is there for a reason, and carries the weight of an intricate story that Paretsky skillfully pulls together, meshing a seemingly random number of loose threads, into a tightly woven tapestry, that’s both thrilling, revealing, and oh so plausible. 

Of all the characters Paretsky gives us though, none quite match up to the two who I found the most intriguing: professor Nathan Kiel and his wife, Sonia. Bombastic, loud, outrageous, and thoroughly reprehensible, nonetheless, they are the train wreck you can’t help but stare at. They are, in essence, Burton and Taylor in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf,” majestically flawed on a whole other level.

The plot, on a whole, holds up without too much scrutiny, much of which is due to the expert writing skills of Paretsky who, once again, delivers a thoroughly enjoyable read. 

Fallout is just that, the human, emotional, and physical costs of years of lies, deceit, and betrayal.

FALLOUT
Sara Paretsky
William Morrow
9780062663186
Detective | Suspense | Mystery

Thirteen by Steve Cavanagh

Book Summary

They were Hollywood’s hottest power couple. They had the world at their feet. Now one of them is dead and Hollywood star Robert Solomon is charged with the brutal murder of his beautiful wife.

This is the celebrity murder trial of the century and the defence want one man on their team: con artist turned lawyer Eddie Flynn.

All the evidence points to Robert’s guilt, but as the trial begins a series of sinister incidents in the court room start to raise doubts in Eddie’s mind.

What if there’s more than one actor in the courtroom? What if the killer isn’t on trial? What if the killer is on the jury?

What I Thought

The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.”
— Christopher McQuarrie, The Unusual Suspects

It doesn’t get any better than this! Steve Cavanagh has done it again, pulling out all the stops to bring another fast-paced, thrilling, rollercoaster read. A thoroughly compelling story in which the Devil truly is in the details.

Eddie Flynn is back in the arena, the courtroom that is, playing the ‘fall’ guy and sitting second chair to Rudy Carp, the lawyer representing actor, Bobby Solomon, in the case of the century. Thing is, Eddie has been talked into playing the fall guy by going after the cops who, Carp has convinced Eddie, planted evidence at the scene of a heinous crime, implicating Bobby Solomon in the murder of his wife and security guard.

While Eddie isn’t convinced either way, not yet at least, he’s taken the ‘second’ chair and, in doing so, the opportunity to do what he does best, because Carp Law has offered him something he needs right now. A boring, secure job in a big law firm, in order to win back his wife. He needs this, he tells himself. Because the one thing Eddie Flynn doesn’t want to lose right now, is his daughter. And if it means going ‘straight,’ and getting out of the way of the bad guys, Eddie is going to give it his best shot.

But not everything is going to go according to plan, as always. Cavanagh throws every possible spanner into the works, and mixes it up, putting Eddie back in the firing line, and in the sights of not just a couple of corrupt cops, but a serial killer.

As always, the author amps up the tension on several levels, as Flynn and Carp get set to defend Bobby Solomon, unaware there is another player in the room. One who has his own agenda and, a need to kill. Cavanagh alternates between Flynn’s side of the story, told in the first person, and that of serial killer and clever chameleon, Joshua Kane—and if this creepy unnerving guy doesn’t give you goose bumps, no one will.

I particularly like the way the author has written the alternating parts of this story, because while Kane is clearly a main story component, it’s through Eddie’s eye and thoughts that the story really opens up. Eddie is at the emotional heart of the story. Here’s a man trying hard to keep it altogether, because not only has he vowed to himself to do the right thing, but if he doesn’t change, he knows he will lose his wife and daughter for good.

So while we read about Kane and his past, and what makes him a cold-blooded killer, heartless to a fault. Eddie keeps us grounded in reality. And, in between the sensational details of a murder trial, a game of cat and mouse begins. But rest assured, Eddie Flynn is no mouse. He’s going to need his background as a conman not just to help get Bobby Solomon off a murder conviction, but to out-smart, and out-play a killer in their midst.

Aided by a well-round cast of characters that each have their own unique personalities, with some crackling twists and turns that had me furiously page turning, the climatic end left me almost breathless and dizzy. Intense, taut, adrenaline-fuelled, plausibly plotted, cleverly twisted, and masterly engineered to leave you wanting more.

Eddie Flynn and his author deliver another thoroughly absorbing and entertaining read. Highly recommended!

#MurderMondays: A Twist of the Knife by Becky Masterman

Book Summary

Ex-FBI agent Brigid Quinn has seen it all, and survived.

But nothing can cut her closer to the bone than family…

Now happily retired in Arizona, Brigid gets called back to her home in Florida where her dad is suffering from pneumonia and her mother is suffering from chronic passive-aggression. Spending time with her dysfunctional family is not her fav thing, so when a close colleague asks for her help in overturning the conviction of a man on death row for killing his wife and three children, Brigid’s spirits are lifted.

Taking on the entire criminal justice system is easier for her than dealing with her embattled parents. That is, until Love rears its ugly head and Brigid suspects her colleague is going rogue even more than she ever did…

What I Thought

A TWIST OF THE KNIFE is a good, old-fashioned whodunit updated for modern sensibilities, with enough twists and turns to keep you guessing who did what, and why. But this is no walk in the park murder-mystery, this is also a cleverly written tale of wrong doing. It’s serious, gripping and yes, in places, droll and witty. Thanks in part to Masterman’s two gritty, determined characters, hard-core senior citizen and ex-FBI agent, Brigid Quinn, who isn’t averse to getting the job done, and FBI agent, Laura Coleman. 

Two very different women; two very different sensibilities that make for a great dynamic. Both bound by a shared experience that has left scars on both their psyches and souls. Masterman puts Quinn and Coleman through the wringer both physically, and emotionally, as they race to undercover new evidence to save an innocent man, on death row. But nothing is ever as it seems. 

As her father lays dying in the hospital, Brigid has to contend with not only new revelations about her childhood, and more, both parents. But the fact that Laura just might be more involved with a convicted murderer than she cares to admit. And, as the pair try to race the clock, time ticks down, leads fizzle and die, and just when you think they might save the day, the plot takes a nasty twist.

With a great cast of well-delineated characters that range from a small-time loan shark, to Brigid’s brother, Todd, who she has some snappy arguments with, to the crusading Alison Samuels hellbent on seeing Creighton executed, Brigid has her hands full. Never mind dealing with her confessional mother. It’s the glimpses inside Quinn’s head that makes A Twist of the Knife a cut above the rest and how the story unfolds through her eyes, showing us how the characters not only develop but react and move the plot forward. 

And excellent read and, it must be said, an excellent series from Masterman. Another solid outing you’re not going to want to put down!

A TWIST OF THE KNIFE (Book #3)
Becky Masterman
Penguin
9781250074515
Murder-Mystery

The Lost Man by Jane Harper

Book Summary

Two brothers meet at the remote border of their vast cattle properties under the unrelenting sun of the outback. In an isolated part of Australia, they are each other’s nearest neighbour, their homes hours apart.

They are at the stockman’s grave, a landmark so old that no one can remember who is buried there. But today, the scant shadow it casts was the last hope for their middle brother, Cameron. The Bright family’s quiet existence is thrown into grief and anguish.

Something had been troubling Cameron. Did he choose to walk to his death? Because if he didn’t, the isolation of the outback leaves few suspects…

What I Thought

Jane Harper has done it again. Written another compelling, thought-provoking, absorbing slice of life in the Aussie outback beneath a blistering sun. THE LOST MAN is as complex and twisted as they come and taking the same formula that worked for The Dry, puts the reader deep in the heart of Queensland, riding roughshod over a family that like The Dry, has one too many secrets buried deep in the scorched red earth.

Everyone, including the Pommy backpackers, has a story to tell. And every character, including the children, have secrets they’re not supposed to share. And as the story and the details surround the grisly death of middle son, Cameron, unfolds, layer after layer, is peeled away revealing forgotten and hidden truths left to long festering in the dark. Family secrets that begin to bleed through as Nathan, the eldest son of Liz and Carl Bright, narrates the story.

Oh, what a wonderfully twisted mind Harper must have, because she skilfully weave a thoroughly absorbing multi-layered story about people struggling on every front: with loneliness, the weather—brutal and unforgiving—to familiar family dynamics. Each character is a richly detailed person with their own set of problems, but the heart of the story is centred around Nathan, as he starts to piece together what happened both present, and past.

These fascinating characters are at the heart of this family drama, but the countryside, and the brutal unforgiving world these people live in, is also a big part of Harper’s storytelling; bringing the landscape to life as breathing, living thing. Her detailed descriptions have you sweating in the heat, they’re so visceral. I felt like I could see the shimmer of the heat across the dry, baked ground, hear that hum of wind and sand, and feel my skin blistering beneath the noon-day sun.

“At night, when the sky felt even bigger, he could almost imagine it was a million years ago and he was walking on the bottom of the sea. A million years ago when a million natural events still needed to occur, one after the other, to form this land as it lay in front of him now. A place where rivers flooded without rain and seashells fossilised a thousand miles from water and men who left their cars found themselves walking to their deaths.”

The one thing you can be certain of, Jane Harper really knows how to tell a great story, giving ample room for each character to draw you in, delving into everyone’s worst fears and dark secrets. And using Nathan, as an amateur detective, slowly and deceptively, unravels and reveals the truth behind Cameron’s death in an utterly believable way. There are a number of themes, including abuse and rape, that are explored with a deft, careful hand. But it’s the family dynamics that Harper excels at, that keep you page turning right through to an end I didn’t see coming till the last minute, when I was as thoroughly surprised as Nathan!

Harper has the ability to captivate the reader and transport them into a wholly believable world, where everyone, including the land, is in a struggle for survival.

If you enjoy emotionally charged, character driven, layered stories, then Jane Harper’s THE LOST MAN is a must.