Saturday, February 10, 2007

February 2007

The good reads continue:

Raven Black by Ann Cleeves
Protagonist: Insp. Jimmy Perez
Setting: Shetland islands off Scotland
Rating: A+
Comments: A teenaged girl is murdered, bringing up memories of a young girl who disappeared years earlier. The same woman finds both bodies, and then her own young daughter goes missing. Cleeves' slow-moving book draws you in, cleverly laying the clues while you are looking elsewhere. A wonderful sleight-of-hand, right up to the moment the killer is revealed. This is the first in four books that Cleeves is writing about the Shetland islands and Insp. Perez. The book isn't available in the U.S. right now, but worth buying through

Under the Beetle's Cellar by Mary Willis Walker (on audio)
Protagonist: Journalist Mary Cates
Setting: Texas
Rating: A
Comments: A group of religious fanatics kidnaps 11 children and their bus driver, holding them hostage underground. As federal negotiators try to free them, journalist Molly Cates uncovers information about cult leader Samuel Mordecai that puts her right in the middle of the story. Suspenseful and very believable (almost painfully so, at times). This book was recommended without my having ever heard of Mary Willis Walker; now I'm sure to seek out her other books.

The Babes in the Wood by Ruth Rendell
Protagonists: Wexford and Burden
Setting: Kingsmarkham, England
Rating: A
Comments: Floods are threatening the town of Kingsmarkham, but Wexford has bigger problems when two teens and their sitter disappear over the weekend. You can never go wrong with Rendell. This is a slow-moving police procedural, but also a novel about families and relationships.

M is for Malice by Sue Grafton (audio)
Protagonist: Kinsey Millhone
Setting: California
Rating: B-
Comments: Kinsey is asked to find a missing man. That she does quickly, but it only brings bad fortune. Her old boyfriend, Robert Dietz, returns. Will he stay this time? The book's mystery is well-plotted, but there was just a little bit of supernatural woo-woo thrown in -- which threw me off. Still, I have the next in her series lined up.

January 2007

A great start to the year:

Tilt-a-Whirl by Chris Grabenstein
Protagonists: Ceepak and Danny
Setting: New Jersey seaside town
Rating: B+
Comments: Officer Ceepak and Danny, a part-time cop, are the first on the scene of a murder. The only witness, the man's daughter, later disappears, Ceepak has made a vow to protect her, so he and Danny are soon on a case which takes all manners of twists and turns. Characters nicely drawn, great humor, fast-paced. This is Grabenstein's debut novel, and he's definitely an author to keep an eye on. There's an interview with Chris over at

The Devil's Feather by Minette Walters
Protagonist: Journalist Connie Burns
Setting: Zimbabwe, Baghdad and Winterbourne, a town in the English countryside
Rating: A+
Comments: A psychological thriller with an intertwined mystery. Connie Burns uncovers a series of women's murders, first in Zimbabwe and then in Baghdad, and she's sure she knows who is behind them, but has no proof. Then she's kidnapped in Baghdad. On her release, she goes into hiding in England. But we all know that the man behind the murders, and her kidnapping, will soon show up again. The tension was so well-maintained that it was hard to put this book down, and it continues to haunt me weeks later. This is the first Walters book I'd read, but certainly not the last.

Saturday by Ian McEwan (on audio)
Protagonist: Henry Perowne
Setting: London
Rating: A
Comments: Henry Perowne is a successful doctor in a happy marriage, with well-adjusted grown children. All seems perfect, until Henry is in a minor car accident. The book is hard to classify: thriller? Somewhat, but the story moves slowly, even though all the events take place in a day. As usual, McEwan's prose is wonderful. And when the story does pick up, it's hard to walk away from it.

Jar City by Arnaldur Indridason
Protagonists: Insp. Erlendur, with Sigurdur Oli and Elinborg
Setting: Reykjavik, Iceland
Rating: A
Comments: When a man is found murdered in his home, with few clues except for a note -- "I am him" -- Erlendur and his team must delve into his past to find out who murdered him. Not much of a whodunnit, but an excellent police procedural. A story of family ties, as well.

Silence of the Grave by Arnaldur Indridason
Protagonists: Insp. Erlendur, with Sigurdur Oli and Elinborg
Setting: Reykjavik, Iceland
Rating: A+
Comments: Again, Erlendur and his team must go into the past when a skeleton is found at a construction site. Is the skeleton a woman who disappeared shortly before her wedding, or someone who lived at a nearby house? Long-ago secrets are finally uncovered. This one was a whodunnit, as well as a who-is-the-skeleton mystery? Gripping -- and very moving.

L is for Lawless by Sue Grafton (on audio)
Protagonist: Kinsey Millhone
Setting: Texas
Rating: B
Comments: This time, Kinsey actually leaves California! Funny characters and funny situations, especially when Kinsey has to go undercover as a hotel maid. Better than recent books.