By Stephen Leather
Jack Nightingale is a London police negotiator whose final case is filled with tragedy and oddity. He only wants to move on and two years later finds him as a private detective. However, when he receives a call from an attorney informing him of his father’s death, Jack’s life is forever changed. Discovering he was adopted Jack tries to piece together the clues about his birth parents. His father apparently sold Jack’s soul for wealth. Jack, about to turn 33, is nearing the time of retribution. Not believing anything other than his father was insane, begins to realize evil does exist, especially when people around him start dying. Jack is up against time, and unknown forces, to find a solution to save himself.
Clever. A different type of thriller/supernatural/mystery. This is one of those plots I thoroughly enjoy. A little bit of occult, a little bit of murder, a little bit of intrigue. Unlike some horror or supernatural books, the monster isn’t jumping out with each chapter. It’s subtle and draws you in.
Jack Nightingale: 32. At the beginning of book he is an inspector on London’s Metropolitan Armed Response Team. Trained to negotiate with hostage takers and potential suicides. Attended King’s College, Hendon Police College, and Bramshill Officer Training College. Drives an MGB. Becomes a private detective shortly after events in the first chapter. Smoker, hates elevators, single.
Jenny McLean: 25, Jack’s secretary. Midtwenties, short blonde hair, blue eyes. Attended Cheltenham Ladies College. Fluent in German, French, Japanese. Comes from a wealthy family but always wanted to work for a PI. Lived in Hong Kong for four years. Drives an Audi A4
In many books you will find one of the best characters is either dead or otherwise not involved directly with the story. This is one of those. Ainsley Gosling is a prominent character, but to avoid spoilers, I can’t describe too much about him. There are a few supporting characters, but they are only to be fodder for the events surrounding Nightingale.
Fairly distinctive voices. Conversations aren’t lengthy.
Lots of chapters, but various lengths. Only a few scenes do not include Nightingale. A few instances of profanity but nothing over the top. My ARC mentioned this book is the first in a trilogy and I would be interested in reading the second and third parts. This is one of those stories where the ‘scary’ bits are subtle. Yes, there is death and some of it is graphic but not revolting.
By Harriet Lane
Frances Thorpe works as a literary editor for a struggling London, England newspaper. One winter night, she comes upon an automobile accident and comforts the victim in the last moments of life. The woman was Alys Kyte, wife of Laurence Kyte, a famous author. After meeting with the widower and his two children, Frances begins to see her life changing. She develops a relationship with the daughter and eventually Laurence. Her acquaintance with Laurence also helps her at work. As the months pass, she can never quite get away from the veil of influence Alys had on the family, all the while inexorably surpassing it.
This would be classified under ‘literary fiction.’ The plot is basically how a woman’s life changes after the death of someone she never knew and the family left behind.
Frances Thorpe: literary editor for a London newspaper, parents still alive. One sister and two nephews. Enjoyed stamps, C.S. Lewis and Wilder as a child. Plays chess
Polly Kytes: 19, enrolled in drama college, went to school until 16, taught in South Africa, recently ended a relationship with an acting trainee, smoker
Mary Pym: literary editor and Frances’ supervisor, self centered, butters up to successful clients, smoker, has children
Lane did a masterful job creating the characters. Very well defined and I was interested in all of them. Frances’ mother is quite a unique character.
Very well defined voices, especially Polly’s. Surprisingly, Frances doesn’t speak too often and when she does, it’s in reaction to others. Only near the end does she show some courage to speak up for what she wants.
First person from Frances’ POV. Present tense. No chapters, just scene changes. Very good use of words and language. Profanity from Polly, mostly. Not sure if it’s necessary and each time it’s used, it’s a little bit of a shock, but interesting use of it. Subtlety is the key. I felt reading this that everything was a bit surreal, not in a drug induced haze sort of way, just under a very thin veil. You’re expecting tragedy and you receive deep insight. I enjoyed Lane’s descriptive words and use of British terms. She uses words not often seen in novels. Yes, this book is for women but there is some excellent and deep insight. Because of the masterful language I’ve bumped up my ranking to:
By Gloria Galloway
Sacramento homicide investigators Anthony Camarelli and his partner Julia Reynolds have worked well together. When after a boring stakeout Julia is shot and killed, Anthony thinks his world has come to an end. However, their ‘partnership’ hasn’t ended because she reappears as a ghost. Not knowing her purpose, she nonetheless helps Tony return to work. Just in time, too, because he and his new partner catch a domestic killing followed by what turns out the latest in a string of serial murders spanning back to Atlanta. Enter the FBI and an attractive agent named Romero. Romero, Camarelli, a task force, with as much assistance from Julia as she can provide in her spirit state, begin gathering what evidence is available. But the killer keeps taunting them with more bodies. How many more women will die before he is caught or moves on to another killing field?
The concept of a ghost partner is not new but isn’t done too often. I was hoping for more from Julia but she tends to play almost a supportive role rather than a main character. The ghost part is subdued. She uses her condition to aid Tony by trying to connect with the victims in order to provide clues, but I wanted more involvement from her, especially at the conclusion. Also, there is the underlying question of why she returned and stayed even through the case’s end. This question is never answered. Still, it’s a good murder mystery.
Anthony Camarelli: Sacramento Sheriff’s Department officer, Italian, marksman with numerous trophies, has a “Rosie” heart tattoo, lapsed Catholic, mother and sister both alive, born and raised in Sacramento. Dad owned a gas station. Charmer and attracts women.
Julia Reynolds: 35, Sacramento Sheriff’s Department, Anthony’s partner, tall , chestnut hair, has a Wonder Woman tattoo, likes scary movies, sleeps with a night light, parents dead, likes expensive fashion shoes
Rita Romero: FBI Special Agent in Charge. Very attractive with long, curly red hair. Came from Chicago. Graduated from Harvard Law. Father was with the Bureau. Married but separated.
Some standard characters here but a well rounded cast. Camarelli likes the ladies, but he also shows emotion. Julia has a bit of depth, especially in the church scene when she begging for answers. Relative to the problem below with time, Camarelli hooks up with a manicurist/pedicurist but after their one wild time together, you never see her again.
Pretty distinctive voices. Galloway does a good job of keeping in cop-speak. There are some lecture conversations, but nothing over the top and I like the fact that even though I’ve read hundreds of murder mysteries, some of the process is explained. For instance, Romero lets the reader know about organized and disorganized killers.
Some profanity, but the story deals with cops. A few misspellings. There’s also a time issue. A lot of time passes from the time of Julia’s death to the end of the story and it’s not very evident. The story moves along fairly well in regards to each murder but I didn’t see the weeks and months that pass with nothing going on. The story jumps from one incident to another. I only caught the passage of the time when it is mentioned almost a year has gone by since Julia’s death. There is some wry humor at times to keep it from dragging too deep into the grittiness of some serial killer novels. I wasn’t excited by how the case was solved, though. Too pat, too easy.
By William Ryan
1937. Moscow. State Security has assigned Captain Korolev of the Moscow Criminal Investigations Department to oversee the case of the death of a film crew member currently in production in Odessa. Hoping the woman’s death can be quickly deemed a suicide, Korolev discovers almost immediately the case for murder. Was her killer one of her many lovers? One of the actors? A villager who doesn’t like the film crew’s presence. Or, could it be someone with Party connections, perhaps the top man himself? Korolev walks a dangerous line especially when he discovers the woman may have been involved in a traitorous operation.
Ryan chose to go classic whodunit this time around. You have your usual fare of suspects and immoral behavior on the part of the victim along with the anticipated discovery of secrets along the way.
Korolev: Captain in the Moscow Criminal Investigation Division, divorced with a son, non Party member but fought in the Red Army during the Revolution and is optimistic about the future despite the despair seen daily, smoker, speaks a little German and English, has scar running down jaw to chin from a saber wielding Cossack, believes in God but must hide the fact
Rodinov: Colonel in State Security, pale and flabby skin, bald
Mushkin: Major in State Security, a little over six feet tall, burly, smoker, blond hair going white, demeanor degrades attractiveness, known to have been sadistic when dealing with the peasants
Shymko: short brown hair, film production coordinator
Babel: writer, Korolev’s friend, speaks a little French and German
Slivka: attractive female Sergeant in Odessa CID, speaks a little English and Italian, dresses in trousers and a leather jacket, smoker
Count Kolya: Leader of the Moscow Thieves, dark eyes, commanding presence, cultured voice, mother’s family from Jewish descent, cousin of Slivka’s
Very well developed characters. Even the individuals of the militia are distinguished from each other. I really got a ‘feel’ for each character and was genuinely interested in learning about each.
Straight forward. Conversations stayed on point. Every bit of dialogue moved the story forward.
I’m not saying you have to read Ryan’s first novel, The Holy Thief, before you read this one, but doing so would get you more familiar with the characters. There are characters in the first book who show up with supporting or minor roles in this story and if you haven’t acquainted yourself with them, you might not get the full effect. I felt compelled by the situation to learn the identity of the killer and to see if Korolev avoids stepping into trouble. Nice descriptions of people, the landscape, and cities without dragging the story down into too much detail. Subtle humor, intelligent writing. Ryan did his homework on showing the culture and the attitudes and the shadow of evil hanging over everything.
by Michael Genelin
I know how you feel. You pick up a mystery set in a European country and you have second thoughts. “I can’t pronounce the names,” you say. “I not familiar with the cities.” My answer? Who cares if the street, city, or personal names are half a mile long or don’t contain but one vowel? With Genelin’s latest Jana Matinova mystery, you’ll forget all about the confusing names and enjoy a intriguing little mystery while touring some of Europe’s locales. Matinova character is caring, witty, and her deductive reasoning is very convincing.
Commander Matinova attends a party for a financier politico wannabe and ends up watching the man’s wife get killed. Staying out of the public eye, she parallels the official investigation, always staying a step ahead, but always searching for what she’s not being told. With the help of an enigmatic and precocious teenage street girl, and avoiding several attempts on her own life, Matinova puts together the pieces of a puzzle that has connections to bands of thugs in World War II.
You always expect a little something extra when there is history involved, tendrils reaching into the past, mixing a little truth with fiction. Being viewed through foreign eyes gives it a little different perspective than if, say an American detective were working on this.
Jana Matinova – Commander in the Bratislava police. She uses deductive reasoning to find clues, pieces of evidence, and to sort out details.
Colonel Trokan – Jana’s superior. Very supportive of Jana. Intelligent.
Seges – Jana’s warrant officer. Young. He wants a transfer to another unit.
Em Mrvova – 13 (?), street girl. Knocks on Jana’s door selling earrings.
Oto Bogan – Financier. Caught up in a scheme not of his own making.
Each character is defined although the story only delves into Matinova’s background. The characters are pretty standard: the commanding officer, the mobster, the assassins, the money hungry killer.
What needs to be said is said. Interrogations are done succinctly, summations are made quickly. A little profanity, but not excessive.
I’d compare it to flying two feet above the water with occasional dips beneath the surface. There are no suspenseful moments. The action scenes are minimalist in nature and read like a weather forecast. I like the logical thinking of Matinova and the other tidbits that round out this story.
Besides her major case, she deals with the shooting death of a Gypsy boy, and how recollections of her mother’s Communist attitude shape her own thoughts. This Genelin’s fourth Matinova mystery so fans should be satisfied with another fine novel.
By R. T. Raichev
Lord Roderick Remnant was a nobleman who was not so noble. He enjoyed causing heartache, consorted with the occult, and threw wild parties on his private Caribbean island. Any wonder he would be murdered? Those around him when he shuffled off this mortal coil are up to their eyeballs in conspiracy to keep the murder a secret. But when the new Lady Remnant receives a videotape of her brother in-law’s death, she hires detective Major Payne to ferret out the truth. Along with his novelist wife, Antonia, Payne is faced with a plethora of suspects. By using extraordinary deductive reasoning a’la Holmes, can Payne expose a murderer? You know he can.
Murder is fun again! Oh sure, it’s an oft used plot. With this type of murder mystery, there’s nothing new under the sun. But as of this writing, I’d been reading a lot of serious gritty murder mysteries, a few of them relatively average or below. It was such a delight to pick up this book and get back to the enjoyment of reading.
Hugh Payne: amateur detective, major in the army, exhibits a bit of Sherlock Holmes deductive prowess, owns a cat, smokes a pipe
Antonia Darcy: author, Pyane’s wife, was married before, comes across as mild-mannered
Lady Clarissa Remnant : 45, widow, was Lord Roderick’s second wife, had many lovers, smokes, short fair hair
Stephan Farrar: Clarissa’s son from a previous marriage, takes drugs and has psychological problems, slender, butter yellow hair, wide mouth, bright blue eyes
Gerard Fenwick: Roderick’s brother, struggling writer, the 13th Earl Remnant, married, likes scotch and soda, frozen Daiquiris, and cigars
Louise Hunter: moon shaped face, auburn hair, gold-brown eyes, double chin, overweight, married but sleeps a separate bedroom from her husband, owns dogs
Such wonderful people are the Brits. You are introduced to a slew of them in the prologue and it’s a bit overwhelming to get smacked with so many all at once. I had to concentrate a bit in the subsequent chapters to put everybody in their place. Once I did, the characters became distinguishable and ‘classical.’
Many characters are described and much of the story is told through conversations. The style is so typically British I found myself right there in the same room enjoying the tea and scones and the cakes and breathing the atmosphere.
Each chapter is titled. Relatively short chapters. Each parcels out just a bit more of the story, just enough drawing open of the curtain to reveal the picture behind. I liked the interview with Antonia and the way she describes her style of writing is how Raichev writes: a balance between setting, characterization, and plot. Several references to the murder mystery genre, other literature, and several authors, almost a sly poking fun, yet a mild salute to them. This is a mystery that harkens to the thirties or forties, but pays respect to modernity. A fast read. A thoroughly enjoyable story. A definite keeper.
By David Lyons
Newly appointed federal Judge Jack Boucher is called into handle some of the cases of Judge Epson, who suffered a heart attack. He hears a twenty year old contempt charge on a scientist who subsequently asks Boucher for assistance. He claims he’s still seeking justice from a two decades’ old case involving a new form of energy and the CEO of an energy production company. While trying to deal with a waning relationship with his girlfriend, Boucher starts investigating the case and almost immediately runs into murder, corruption, and bribery. The case takes him from the heart of New Orleans to Massachusetts to the bottom of the ocean. With help from a New Orleans homicide and the scientist, Boucher concocts a scheme to exact long overdue justice. That is, if he can stay alive long enough.
Standard plot. A little bit different in that Boucher, a federal judge, gets to go on adventures. This is not a Grisham type novel set in the courtroom. This books takes you places.
Jack Boucher: Cajun, U.S. District Judge in Louisiana, father was a black Cajun, grew up on the bayou, lettered in football, basketball, and track at college. Stays in shape. Drives a 2004 Ford F-150 XF4 truck. Lives in the French Quarter, parents dead. Boxed in the Army. Widower
Bob Palmetto: Geophysicist, thin, sparse blond hair, talks to himself, close set eyes
Roscoe Fitch: New Orleans Detective, hangdog look, smokes and drinks but is trying to quit, wife died in Hurricane Katrina, doesn’t like his first name
John Perry: CEO of Rexcon Energy, black hair, mid fifties, married almost forty years. Has a stay-at-home 22 year old son he doesn’t like
Defined but standard and predictable characters. You know who the good guys and bad guys are and there are no surprises. Catch the small mistake with Perry – mid fifties (so I wold assume 55) yet married for almost forty years? Support characters are, again, interesting but predictable.
Except for a few French Cajun terms thrown around there wasn’t anything too exciting about the conversations. Sometimes, I had trouble knowing who was speaking because the author uses the word ‘he’ a lot when there are two or more people in the scene and sometimes it was difficult knowing which ‘he’ was doing action and speaking.
Fast moving book. Quick scenes. Nothing drawn out. Lyons describes pretty well the Louisiana/Cajun/bayou culture and setting. He likes poetry. Some profanity that was unnecessary. The major problems were: abrupt POV switches, unnecessary sentences that took the reader out of the flow of narrative. Many incidents of weak writing in that there was minimal attempt at depth in some of the narrative. Surface material. Even the sex scenes weren’t ‘hot’.
By David Fingerman
Walter Farkos is murdered and places the body in the newly purchased house of former Minneapolis police officer Louise Miller. Then the killer sets fire to Miller’s neighbor’s house and murders another neighbor. Who is trying to destroy Miller? One of the partners in Farkos’ investment firm? Walter’s son? Wife? Daughter or son in-law? Also why would this person be trying to frame Louise who has enough problems of her own dealing with moving into new house with her girlfriend, a gambling addiction, and pressure to return to the police force?
Standard plot with the usual cast of suspects, cop friends, family, and personal issues. It’s not complicated and enough elements to keep it relatively fresh.
Louise Miller: former Minneapolis cop, addicted to gambling, red hair, hazel eyes, lesbian, collects old LPs, drives a Saturn, hand recovering from a severe break, owns a rescue Rottweiler
Karla: Louise’s girlfriend/roommate, smokes, blonde, has a collection of old LPs, drives a Beetle, does needlepoint.
Andrew Miller: Louise’s brother, deputy with the Hennepin County sheriff’s office, 5’11”, well toned physique
Gordon Grant: Detective, gray sideburns, crew cut, blue eyes, aggressive in case solving, rarely deigns to speak to lower ranked officers but keeps tabs on the promising ones, divorced with two kids
Also there is Louise’s brother, Farkos’ family with their quirks, and the investment firm partners all with their own personalities. And of course, the dog, which is always a good addition to just about any story.
Pretty standard. Some distinctive voices come through.
Several uses of profanity. Relatively short chapters. Minor grammatical errors. The expected twist. Fingerman doesn’t try to sneak secrets or clues and in one instance I caught a possible discrepancy that in just a few subsequent paragraph later was explained. I thought this a nice touch that I can catch something, but learn that Fingerman was already on top of it. This is a pretty fast read with quick action scenes and not a lot of graphic detail. This is one of those books that kept switching between ranks as I read it, but I’ll grudgingly give it:
By S. G. Browne
Nick Monday, San Francisco private detective, is also a luck poacher. He has the ability to take other people’s luck, process it, and sell it. Unfortunately this day is not to be a lucky one for him. First he gets hired by a woman claiming to be the mayor’s daughter to retrieve her father’s luck. Then he is bullied by two federal agents to give a Mafia boss some bad luck. Then the Mafia King wants Nick under his employment. Oh, and let’s not forget about another enigmatic scooter riding girl with whom Nick would very much like to get acquainted. Nick soon finds out bad luck and past actions have a way of catching up with him.
I love the concept. It’s a strange idea but Browne lays it out very nicely. This is an intricate plot with a lot going on but Browne keeps it straight.
Nick Monday: private investigator in San Francisco, luck poacher, real name is Aaron, 33, , likes routine, not a believer in heaven or hell, eats Lucky charms and likes Mentos, apple fritters and cappuccinos and mochas, mother died in a car accident when he was nine, emotionally estranged from his father, came from Tuscon three years ago, likes brunettes and attracts female baristas, sister is also adept at luck poaching but quit, never good at…(lots of things: geography, tact, finesse, making decisions, irony, idioms, etc.)
Scooter Girl: cute, clear skin, delicate jaw, drives a scooter
Doug, aka ‘Bow Wow’: gangsta rapper wannabe, Nick’s under-the-table assistant, Irish/Italian, superstitious, father died when Doug was ten
Wonderful characters. Unique. Even the bad guys. Sure, some of them are the usual cast from detective novels, but their descriptions aren’t. Thug One, Barry Manilow, Tuesday Knight. The names are great and their quirks are heightened by Nick’s view of them.
Nick is the wise cracking PI. The thugs are typically thuggie quiet. The bad guy, the sister, the femme fatales…all have their distinctive voices.
First person from Nick’s POV, present tense. The majority of the story takes place in a single day. Lots of similes and stories of lucky incidents from history to relate to present day. Browne did some good research to throw in factoids every so often. A few unnecessary bits of profanity. Lots of humor, including many lines about sex. Very well presented. Fairly quick read. Very enjoyable. I hope to Nick Monday again.
By Jonnie Jacobs
Caitlin Whittington is the second girl to go missing in five months. Her mother, Grace, now married to a second husband, is of course devastated. When Grace discovers a possible connection between Caitlin’s disappearance and her stepson, Adam, things go from bad to worse.
Meanwhile, Rayna Godwin, lead investigator on both cases has her own problems. Her desired laid back life in small town Paradise Falls, Oregon, is ruined by the girls’ disappearances. They bring up memories of her own daughter’s kidnapping and murder years before. Adding to the problem–her ex lover, FBI agent Neal Cody has been assigned to help out.
Grace Whittington: works as an administrative assistant at the college
Adam Whittington: Grace’s stepson, gangly, likes history, Straight A student, introverted
Rayna Godwin: detective, slender, short honey-colored hair, green eyes, her daughter was murdered, former detective with the San Jose PD, her husband died of cancer, owns a hamster, snacks when nervous
Neal Cody: FBI agent, was assigned to the case of Rayna’s daughter’s murder, now divorced but married at the time he was lover of Rayna’s, soft voice, long legs, middle brother of three, played high school baseball
Jacobs tries to have two main characters (Grace and Rayna) with a third (Adam) also seeking the spotlight. Because of this I didn’t get a deep feeling about anybody. Both Rayna and Grace exhibit emotion, but because of the similarity of their situations, the differences are difficult to spot. Cody isn’t as strong as I expected and I wanted to see more depth in the main suspect, Adam.
Nothing too unexpected. Voices vary minimally except, surprisingly, with the minor characters of Adam’s mother Caitlin’s father.
Chapter lengths vary. Most mysteries will give you a rollercoaster of highs and lows. In this story, the crests weren’t very high and the lows were too long. Just about the time I was starting to drag, the next phase of the mystery was revealed but each was sort of expected. It did speed up near the end but not quite enough to up…