Sunday, June 10, 2007

June 2007

Death by Sheer Torture by Robert Barnard
Protagonist: Insp. Perry Trethowan
Setting: Northumberland, England
Rating: 4.8
A real whodunnit with a sarcastic edge. How can you not like a book where the detective, in an aside to the reader, says: "Look, I won't tell you anything more about that damned risotto. I don't need to be accused of writing gastronomic pornography." Perry has the ultimate dysfunctional family -- his estranged father is found dead on a torture machine, wearing spangled tights, no less. While Perry doesn't want to go back, his boss insists, and soon he's back at the old family mansion. The killer's identity is obvious -- but only after Perry explains it all. Robert Barnard is a recent find -- a real treat.

Q is for Quarry by Sue Grafton (audio)
Protagonist: Kinsey Millhone
Setting: Santa Teresa and Lompoc, Calif.
Rating: 4.6
Kinsey teams up with a retired detective and an old, ailing detective on a cold case murder -- trying to find the identity of a teenaged girl who was killed. It's as much about the case as about her relationship with these two old detectives. A departure for Kinsey, and another in an outstanding series by Grafton.

R is for Richochet by Sue Grafton (audio)
Protagonist: Kinsey Millhone
Setting: Santa Teresa
Rating: 4.4
After the excellent Q, this one fell a few notches, especially because I couldn't believe that Kinsey would let herself be led around by a woman just out of jail.

The Collaborator of Bethlehem by Matt Beynon Rees
Protagonist: Omar Yussef
Setting: Bethlehem
Rating: 4.9
This has been one of the best novels I've read this year. In this, Rees, in his first novel, has created the unlikely detective of Omar Yussef, a frail, elderly schoolteacher. When one of his former and best students is falsely accused of being an Israeli collaborator, Yussef sets out to find who the real collaborator is, in hopes of clearing his student. This is a book based on the very real violence in the Mideast (Rees was Jerusalem bureau chief for Time magazine) and it can be quite chilling -- in a way that most thrillers are not. This is a powerful book, and I'm glad to say Rees is making this a series.

Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill
Protagonist: Judas (Jude) Coyne
Setting: Upstate New York to Louisiana
Rating: 4.7
It's been a long, long time since I was an avid Stephen King reader, and I wasn't expecting much when someone pressed this book into my hands -- written by King's son. But this book hooked me right away -- it's one of those that are hard to put down. A ghost story / thriller (with a little mystery thrown in), it reminds me a bit of Stephen King, but Hill definitely has his own style. Try it -- you might like it!