Saturday, May 12, 2007

May 2007

Baby Shark by Robert Fate
Protagonist: Kristin Van Dijk (aka Baby Shark)
Setting: Texas in the 1950s
Rating: 4.7
Reviewer after reviewer has called Fate's Baby Shark an amazing debut. It sounded overblown, and given the subject matter, I wasn't sure I'd like this book. But let me say -- it will definitely be among my top 10 reads for the year. Fate has created a one-of-a-kind protagonist, the 17-year-old Kristin, half-woman, half-child. One night, in a pool hall, a motorcycle gang kills Kristin's father and brutally rapes and beats Kristin, leaving her for dead. The pool hall owner, Henry, whose own son has been killed, saves Kristin and helps her become Baby Shark, a pool hustler out for revenge. This book will draw you in and, before you know it, you'll have reached the end. Fortunately for us, Fate has already given us a second book, Baby Shark's Beaumont Blues, and a third book is in the works.

Recalled to Life by Reginald Hill
Protagonists: Andy Dalziel and Peter Pascoe
Setting: Yorkshire, England
Rating: 4.6
Dalziel and Pascoe unofficially investigate a 30-year-old crime, one which sends Dalziel to New York City, where he tangles with burglars, shifty women and New York cab drivers. A great spin to a "golden age" mystery. These two detectives are wonderfully written, and yet the plot doesn't take a back seat to the characterizations, as often happens in some books. Until the very end, the truth is hard to suss out -- and then, after the reader thinks the mystery is solved, there's another neat twist. Definitely one of the better mystery authors writing today.

The Necropolis Railway by Andrew Martin
Protagonist: Jim Stringer
Setting: England, 1903
Rating: 3.5
If you love to read about railways and their history, this is a book for you. If, like me, that isn't of such great interest, then this is still a pretty good little mystery. I have to admit, though, the book was heavy on railway lore and I found myself skimming over parts of it. The author based his novel on the real-life London Necroplis Cemetery, which ran funeral trains from Waterloo to Brookwood Cemetery from 1854 to 1941. In this novel, young Jim Stringer moves to London to become a railway man and finds that the man he's replaced recently disappeared. After a few more deaths, his life is suddenly in jeopardy, too.

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield (audio)
Protagonist: Margaret Lea and Vida Waters
Setting: Yorkshire, England
Rating: 4.8
Setterfield's first novel is one of gothic suspense that moves back and forth between the present and the past, as aging author Vida Waters commissions Margaret Lea to write her biography. Waters has never told the truth to any of the journalists who have interviewed her, so Margaret is understandably hesitant. But slowly, secrets are revealed, and mysteries solved.

P is for Peril by Sue Grafton (audio)
Protagonist: Kinsey Millhone
Setting: Santa Teresa, Calif.
Rating: 4.2
Fortunately, Grafton's books just keep getting better. Here, Kinsey is hired to find a man who has disappeared -- not by his wife, but by his ex-wife. She solves the disappearance long before the book's end, but still has a few more mysteries to figure out, one involving her soon-to-be new office landlords. There's enough double-crosses and red herrings in this one to keep it very interesting.

The Torso by Helene Tursten
Protagonist: Det. Insp. Irene Huss
Setting: Gotenburg, Sweden, and Amsterdam
Rating: 3.5
A body found near the seashore is so mutilated that police can't even tell the gender. But through a tattoo, detectives in Sweden piece together the killer's identity -- and soon determine that other murders are linked. The language in this book is quite stilted (although that may be due to the translation) and some of the scenes were a little too gruesome for my taste, but the main characters are interesting, and the author does a great job of incorporating family life, giving the reader some lightness in what would have otherwise been a very dark book. A series I would continue reading.

The Corpse at the Haworth Tandoori by Robert Barnard
Protagonist: Det. Constable Charlie Pearce and Det. Supt. Mike Oddie
Setting: Haworth, Yorkshire, England
Rating: 4.5
A young man is found dead in the Indian Tandoori restaurant parking lot. Then the story switches back in time and we meet Declan O'Hearn, who had been hired to help an aging artist. Declan has a feeling something sinister is afoot, and then he suddenly disappears. Is he the dead man in the parking lot? A great mystery, in the tradition of Agatha Christie.

Barrel Fever by David Sedaris (short stories)
Rating: 4.0
When he's good, Sedaris' warped humor is hilarious (as in the "Santaland Diaries," based on his stint as a Christmas elf at Macy's). Unfortunately, some of his other stories just sort of fall flat.

Rating system:
5.0: Wow!
4.0: Pretty good
3.0: Eh, mediocre
2.0: Pretty Bad
DNF: Did not finish