Tag Archives: mystery

Review: Lost Dog by Alan Russell

3 Stars

Detective Michael Gideon and Sirius, his K-9 partner, are back again to tackle the strangest cases that the LAPD has to offer.  But this time, the case is a little different.  The case finds them.  One evening Sirius saves a dog from pack of coyotes.  They try to return the dog to her owner, Heather Moreland, only to find that she is missing.  The circumstances around her disappearance seem suspicious at best and the more that Gideon digs, the more convinced he is that Heather has been abducted.

As Gideon tries to help locate Heather, he’s also troubled by the death of Detective Langston Walker, the leader of a support group for families of murder victims.  When they last met, Walker told Gideon about a cold case he had reopened, making Gideon wonder if Walker’s death was truly the accident everyone believes it to be.  Gideon has his suspicions right off the bat and as he continues to look through Walker’s cases and his life, the more he’s convinced that Detective Walker was murdered because of something he uncovered.

This is the third book in the Gideon and Sirius series, and once again, I would recommend reading the previous two entries before taking on Lost Dog.  There’s not a huge amount of backstory in this book as compared to the previous two, but it still helps.

The mystery of Heather’s disappearance plays out very well, even though the mystery isn’t very strong.  You’ll figure it out pretty quickly, there are some very obvious clues that are left behind.  The mystery surrounding Detective Walker’s death was a more interesting one and while it wasn’t entirely surprising, it was satisfying.  There are times that I wish the book could have been longer so that equal attention could be paid to both cases.  It’s hard at times to make the jump from one minute he’s still scratching his head and the next the case is solved.  Even with his visions that he experiences after fire-walking, it’s still a pretty big stretch to get from point A to point B.

The secondary characters are still very washed out.  I think at this point I’m actually disappointed in Gideon’s girlfriend.  I know that she has the patience of a saint, but come on, at least make seem realistic.  I still wish there was more interaction between Gideon and Sirius.  With his humor and biting wit, I think Sirius would make an excellent straight man..er..dog!


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Review: The Trapped Girl by Robert Dugoni

3 1/2 Stars

This is the 4th installment of the Detective Crosswhite series.  I received this copy from NetGalley and the publishers.  I have also read the previous three books and would definitely recommend reading the previous books, but the author has written these novels in such a way that you can read them without reading the previous installments, but definitely recommend reading them in order, much more satisfying.

A woman’s body is discovered inside a crab pot, submerged deep in the waters of Puget Sound.  Once again, Detective Tracy Crosswhite finds herself with yet another difficult case to solve.  The first order of business is to find out who this woman is.  During the course of the investigation, they find that this woman went to a lot of trouble to hide who she really is.  What or who is she running from?

As Tracy and her A Team of detectives begin to unravel this case, they discover that their Jane Doe is actually a woman who went missing weeks earlier from Mount Ranier.  This woman was married and her husband had been the prime suspect in her disappearance and becomes the prime suspect again now that she has been found dead.  Just as the case gets rolling, the team is told that the case is going back into the hands of the jurisdiction that handled the disappearance case.  Tracy doesn’t want to let go and she is willing to risk her entire career to solve this case.

As the case goes on, it dredges up memories of Tracy’s sister and the twenty year search for justice in her case.  This is another case that hits close to home.  The young woman who disappeared had much in common with Tracy.  She lost her entire family at a young age and Tracy feels that she owes it to this woman to find out the truth, no matter the cost.

Once again, Tracy is an admirable protagonist and I love her strength and her convictions.  But I am getting a little bored with the whole “personal connection” to every case.  It’s starting to feel a little forced at this point, as is the strained relationship with her Captain.  The guy is a creep and should have been shown the door after the last book.  Her team is full of amazing people too and I’m glad to see them taking a larger role in this book.  I especially love Faz and Del.  We also get to see more of Tracy from a personal level and her relationship with Dan.  It was nice to see her outside of the role as Detective and in the role of just an ordinary woman in love with a man.

If you have read any of the previous books in this series, I definitely recommend this one.  I would not recommend this to someone who hasn’t read the backstory, it just wouldn’t give you the complete story and for that reason alone, I had to deduct half a star.  It’s always hard to review books in a series to someone who hasn’t read the previous books.  But this is a solid undertaking and I don’t think we are done seeing Detective Tracy Crosswhite.

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Review: The Lost Girls of Rome by Donato Carrisi

2 Stars

Sandra Vega is a forensic photographer working with the Milan police department.  Her husband, David, recently died.  She was told that it was an accident, but she knows that it was probably something more sinister.  The voicemail that she was left shortly before he died said he was calling her from Oslo, but he fell to his death in Rome.  She launches her own investigation and ends up tangled up in something much deeper and much more evil than she could have imagined.

In Rome, women have been disappearing.  Sandra finds that the investigation into the death of her husband is somehow entwined in the investigation into the disappearances.  As she follows the clues, she’s finding herself being followed and shadowed.  She finds herself in the middle of something far bigger than this one case, this one investigation.  She begins to see what her husband was investigating and it points to a secret that the Vatican wants to keep quiet.

The plot originally drew me in, it sounded interesting.  A secret sect within the Catholic Church that takes stock of all the confessions of mortal sins and learns about evil and darkness.  But somewhere along they way they stopped being protectors and researchers and started to become avenging angels.  Giving the families of those who were touched by evil the ammunition they would need to avenge the evil done to their loved ones.  Some took the chance and had their revenge.  Others took a different path and showed compassion.  But these avenging angels were playing by their own set of rules and some have seemed to become the evil they were supposed to protect us from.

There were so many threads and facets that the story quickly became mired and bogged down.  Even at the end, after the “surprise twist” was revealed, there was still a sense of incompleteness.  There was much that was left up to the imagination of the reader because there was no explanation and no further information given about some key characters and plot points.  I don’t know if this was a way to open the door for a sequel or what.  I was not impressed with the ending and leaving so many things left unexplained.  I also think that the flipping from past to present was more confusing than it was helpful.

I couldn’t connect with any of the characters and I think that’s why I ultimately didn’t really enjoy this book.  I couldn’t empathize with any of them and for me, they really weren’t that interesting.  I had a very hard time staying interested in this book and seeing it through to the end.  It wasn’t for the lack of writing skill.  The author really does write some really beautiful prose.  If as much effort went into character development as went into some of the descriptions and narrative passages, this could have been a 4 star book at least.

This wasn’t the book for me.  But if you’re interested in a secret sect that pursues evil in the interest of doing a greater good for humanity, give it a try.

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Review: Black Irish by Stephan Talty

4 Stars

Absalom Kearney, a Harvard graduate and detective, has come home to South Buffalo.  She is the adopted daughter of a revered and highly respected cop.  But she’s still an outsider.  She was raised in an area that is known as The County, an insulated area where not only the color of your hair or skin matters, but also where your ancestors were from.  Even though she is from the County, she’s still finding doors closed in her face and people either afraid or too stubborn to talk to her, even to solve a series of gruesome murders that are taking the lives of men of the County.

The book opens with the murder of Jimmy Ryan.  The point of view is from the victim and you get to feel his terror as he’s faced with his killer.  It was a hell of an opening to a book.  He was ultimately found murdered in the basement of a church.  The real mystery begins when Abbie and her partner go to question the family.  They are faced with a wall of silence and excuses.  No one wants to talk and the police can’t understand it.  Why wouldn’t you want to find the person who just took away your husband?  What does this community have to hide?

Abbie begins her investigation and learns that this community has more than a few skeletons in their closets.  The violence intensifies and the body count rises.  Abbie and her father are also targeted by the killer when he leaves his bizarre calling card at her door.  The more she digs, the more she finds that the roots in these murders go far deeper than she could have ever imagined.  A world where a secret society can silence an entire community and let a killer get away with murder.  As she learns more about this society, she learns that it has touched her own life and will have an impact that she never could have imagined.

I was incredibly impressed with this book.  The twists and turns kept you guessing right up until the end.  I thought I had the secret figured out several times, but then I was proven wrong time and again.  I will have to say that I was completely shocked with the conclusion.  I didn’t expect it at all.  I was fooled by one of several blind alleys that the author put into the novel.  It was perfect.

The characters were enjoyable too.  I’m always excited to meet a female protagonist, and Abbie was definitely a very strong lead.  I was a little sad to see her portrayed as crazy or troubled, but I also think that it’s probably impossible based on her upbringing and her chosen profession to not be at least a little bit troubled.  But this didn’t detract from the fact that she is a brilliant investigator and definitely someone I enjoyed getting to know.

I definitely recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a good mystery with lots of thrills and healthy dose of gruesome.

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Review: Finders Keepers by Stephen King

3 Stars

Finders Keepers is the second in a series featuring Bill Hodges, the retired detective who first appeared in Mr. Mercedes.  But this book can really be read on its own, the references back to Mr. Mercedes aren’t too many in nature and the ones that are there are so well explained that you can probably get by without reading the predecessor.  But if you’re a Stephen King fan, you’ve probably read it anyway.

The book starts in the 1970’s with Morris Bellamy and his pals breaking into reclusive author, John Rothstein’s house.  The old man dropped out of the public eye decades before but was known to keep large amounts of cash in his home.  They’re there for the money, but Morris is there for more.  He doesn’t think that the author ever stopped writing and what he’s looking for are those notebooks, those writings that would take his beloved character Jimmy Gold from the literary graveyard back into the spotlight.  Because he just couldn’t have sold out and gone on to live a normal life!!  Because shit don’t mean shit, to quote Jimmy Gold.  Of course things go sideways and even though he finds the notebooks, he decides to kill John Rothstein.  Soon enough, Morris ends up in jail on a completely unrelated crime and all he thinks about are those notebooks and the money that he stole, but mostly the notebooks.  His fanboy attitude reminds you of a certain number one fan from King’s earlier work, Misery.

Jump ahead to 2009 where teenager, Peter Saubers and his family moves into Morris Bellamy’s old home.  His family has fallen on hard times after his father loses his job in the economic downturn and then his father was run down by Brad Hartsfield (Mr. Mercedes) while he was waiting in line for a job fair.  His parents are fighting and he’s pretty sure that they are going to split up if something doesn’t happen.  He happens to wander down to the vacant lot near the house and finds the trunk that Morris Bellamy buried decades before.  He finds money and the notebooks and realizes that he can save his family.  He starts sending the money to his family and it’s just enough to keep them floating until his dad can recover.  There is no divorce and the family slowly begins to heal.  Until the money runs out.

By this time Peter is a junior in high school and he’s read everything in those notebooks from John Rothstein.  He knows enough to realize that he’s sitting on a treasure.  He’s become desperate again for money because his little sister really wants to be able to go to the private school in town along with her friend Brenda.  So he approaches a book dealer and tries to sell some of the notebooks.  The problem with this is the book dealer knows about these notebooks.  He was friends with Morris Bellamy way back in the day and knows that there are more than just the few notebooks that Peter has offered.  Of course he blackmails Peter and demands that he get all the notebooks.  Unbeknownst to both of them, Morris is no longer in prison and he’s come back to retrieve what he believes he is due.  After all, he found the notebooks first and he needs to know what else John Rothstein wrote about Jimmy Gold.

Bill Hodges doesn’t come into the story until almost halfway through and by then he’s almost an afterthought.  It was nice to see Holly and Jerome again and to see them work together as a unit trying to solve the mystery of the notebooks before poor Peter meets with an accident or worse.  But they seem out of place and I think it really threw off the timing of the story when they were introduced.  The threads did finally come together and were woven into a coherent and cohesive narrative, but the introduction of these characters was jarring at first.  I guess I didn’t care so much to know that Hodges is now a repo man who has Holly as his office assistant.  I think the introduction to Hodges could have been better done with simply having Brenda and Tina Saubers (Peter’s little sister) show up at his office…which they did later…to serve as the string that brings him back into the story.

I enjoyed the two main characters, Morris and Peter.  I felt that they were well thought out and fleshed out.  Morris definitely had some of that creepy “I’m your biggest fan!” vibe to him and he was just the right amount of crazy to make him believable and would definitely keep some writers up at night with nightmares.  Peter is sympathetic, believable and it’s easy to empathize with him and very easy to put yourself into his shoes.  But the other characters weren’t as well done, most of them were just cardboard cutouts to me.  None of them were memorable other than Peter’s little sister, Tina and maybe Bradley Hartsfield.  The rest were just okay.

I did enjoy the end of the main story and I did appreciate how things wrapped up for the main characters.  I was a little dismayed at the very end.  It’s clear that we haven’t seen the last of Bill Hodges nor have we seen the end for Bradley Hartsfield.  I don’t like cliffhanger endings or books make it very obvious that there is going to be a sequel.  But I think that’s more personal preference, so my review is not taking this into account.  I would not recommend this book to anyone who reads Stephen King’s books to have the bejesus scared out of them.  This is nothing like The Shining, Misery or any of his other horror novels.  This is more a mystery with the old, crusty detective that everyone comes to love.  I still don’t love Bill Hodges, but I do love Stephen King.  While this was not his strongest novel, it was still pretty good.

Until next time…

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Review: Ruthless by John Rector

1 Star.

Nick White walks into a bar to have a drink, he’s down on his luck after losing his job and landing himself in a world of trouble due to poker.  Lost his job, lost his wife, poor sap.  In walks a blonde who sits down next to him and tells him that he’s early.  Bantering begins and then ends with her handing him an envelope telling him half now and the other half when the job is done.  She tells him one week and then leaves.  Who did she think he was?  An assassin for hire?  Of course he’s going to look inside the envelope where he finds a flash drive, a pile of cash and a picture of a young woman with an address on the back.  Who is she?  Why does this mysterious blonde want her dead?  Should he just call the police and be done with it?  Should he find the endangered woman and warn her?  Should he just take the money and run?  Talk about a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Suddenly Nick becomes the only hope for young Abigail Pierce, the woman in the photo.

I guess it starts out with an okay premise, if you can completely suspend belief and think that someone who is desperate enough to hire someone to assassinate another person is going to just hand the money over to the first person that they sit down next to in a bar.  What could have been an okay mystery turned into a quagmire that never fully explains itself.

There are twists, turns, crosses and double-crosses.  That’s all well and good, and in a good number of books works quite well.  In this case it just turned into a sloppy mess that the author seemed to have just given up on halfway through.  There could have been a pretty well developed backstory and a damn good explanation as to why it was happening, but he dropped the ball.  The only thing that was interesting about this entire story was what was contained on that flash drive.  I wish he would have spent more time with that aspect of the story.  As for being a mystery with lots of twists and turns?  You could see the plot twists a mile away, there was no surprise.  There was no shock.  It was a huge letdown.

The plot aside, none of the characters had any substance.  They were completely one dimensional and nothing about them was memorable.  Cardboard cutouts have more personality than practically everyone in this book.  I think the only character that I could connect with or have any kind of empathy to was Charlie.  The story was told first person and I think this backed the author into a corner, maybe?

The only reason I finished this book was to see how the heck he was going to tie everything together.  But he never did.  Everything was left empty and loose strings were flying all over the place.  I don’t know if this was some kind of attempt to hint at a sequel (and I didn’t care enough to research to see if there was one) or if he just stopped caring.  I was really disappointed in this because I’d heard nothing but good things about this author and I even have another of his books on my TBR pile.  I’m willing to give him another chance, but if you’re looking for a good mystery or a noir thriller, steer clear of Ruthless.

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