Book Review: Want You Dead, by Peter James

Available in bookstores nationwide.

How would it affect you if the one whom you loved was found immolated − suicide cv_want_you_deadsuspected?

In this, the tenth in James’ series featuring Police DS Roy Grace, the author drip feeds us teasers into the drama with each of the opening, short chapters revealing a different character’s own story − first the person soon to die by fire, then the obsessed perpetrator, then the subject of the perp’s obsession. It’s a technique which hooked me − I stayed reading through the whole day.

There is a certain gutsiness within Red, the target who the would-be killer spirals towards, creating murder and mayhem which seems for a while to be unrelated, until the connections are found. Grace leads the investigation of the cryptic evidence, while trying to ensure threatened disasters are prevented. Red is determined not to alter her life again.

But there is no determination greater than that of someone scorned by a lover. Someone with a wealth of short-term job experiences which contribute to the skill set that creates terror in Red, family and friends, and frustrates the movements of the those trying to protect her, all the while quietly closing in on her.

The thriller’s finish is one you will not expect − and thoroughly satisfying, too.

Reviewed by Lynne Street

Want You Dead 
by Peter James
Published 2014 by Macmillan, London
ISBN 978-0-230-76058-5 HB
ISBN 978-0-230-76060-8 TPB

Book Review: Swimming in the Dark, by Paddy Richardson

Available now from all booksellers

This merging of the cv_swimming_in_the_darkstories of two distinct families in different locations and times into one interacting tale of misery, fear, hate and hurt, resolves the unfolding drama in a most satisfactory way. Between their two stories are common themes − fear of imposed authority and abuse of power. These themes drive characters and events onward towards the inevitable end.

The Freemans are a dysfunctional family, with no permanent father figure, a mother who seeks comfort in drink and dubious liaisons, two young adult sons who pretend to work but prefer to deal, the older daughter who ran away from home years ago, and Serena, a young girl who is targeted by the town’s sexual predator but cannot face revealing this.

The Kleins are a family of mother and daughter, the last of a family of refugees from post-Cold War East Germany − Leipzig. Since arriving in New Zealand, age has taken the father and Oma and Opa (grandma and grandad), leaving Gerda, a former maternity nurse, still believing sometimes that old Russian-controlled Leipzig was a better place, but sometimes wracked with guilt by the discoveries of what the Russian Stasi had been doing to the populace without her knowing. Her daughter Ilse teaches at the local secondary school, and has been nurturing Serena’s unrecognized scholastic ability, giving her hope of getting away to university.

The story’s swimming refers to the river, a gathering place for teens and families in summer, and Ilse’s place for swimming alone at night. Serena realizes the teens are being watched by a respected member of the community from the bridge, but she feels uncomfortable. His attention towards her escalates to the level of sexual abuse, and rape. She hides the resulting pregnancy as long as she can.

Ilse, out one evening for her usual swim, discovers Serena in the beginning stages of labour, alone, frightened and in pain. She is terrified to let anyone know, so Gerda draws on her skills to successfully deliver Serena’s baby.

The rapist father, still watching for her, discovers where she is in hiding. How Ilse and Gerda deal with his aggressive arrival in their home is a triumph of rights over fear and victimization, leaving this reader wanting to yell in triumph. The story’s conclusion leaves the right characters in the right situation for each, in a most satisfactory ending.

Reviewed by Lynne Street

Swimming in the Dark
by Paddy Richardson
Published by Upstart Press,
ISBN: 9781927262054

 

Book Review: Binary, by Michael Crighton as John Lange

Available to order

This 216 page novel counts down the twelve hourscv_binary to a potential metropolitan disaster, as John Graves, working with Decker of Special Projects Division and Venn of Bell Labs, frantically attempts to use his close knowledge of mad man Wright to prevent the timed release of a binary nerve gas into the air of Los Angeles.

The technology dates the tale – no microcomputers in the general population, and those used by large departments all text-based (no Windows in ’72!) – but it moves at a good pace. It’s a chemical or physics student’s dream, made readily understandable by Crichton’s attention to explanatory passages which read easily.

There are lots of “red herrings” to be followed, errors of judgement to foul up proceedings – as the clock counts down, and all aspects of the intended crime are feasible – which makes it scary when the reader realizes “precautions” today still could allow it to happen.

A lovely light read, easily digestible. The front cover illustration bears no relation to any part of the plot – a typical men’s novel from the era of first publication.

Reviewed by Lynne McAnulty-Street

Binary
by Michael Crichton, writing as John Lange
Hard Case Crime, published by Titan Books
Originally published in 1972
ISBN 9781783291250

Book Review: After Her, by Joyce Maynard

More than a crime story, Maynard’s tale is that of how twocv_after_her sisters, Rachel and Patty, cope raising themselves, caught between a disinterested mother and an absent Police Detective father, during and after the extended period in which a serial killer prowls the hills on which they play. Told from Rachel’s point of view, in the first person, the reader is drawn into the sisters’ world, their family, and Rachel’s development.

With imagination in lieu of spending money, they roam far and wide, inventing stories and games in the vast region crossed by trails and tracks. Up in the hills, they discover (and believe they are the first to do so) a dumped rusted out truck, which becomes a secret place for their days left to their own devices.

To indicate the time period – their musical entertainment is via a small portable record player, with a collection of records retrieved from a dumpster (Black Sabbath, Moody Blues, Rolling Stone, Procol Harum, Led Zeppelin, Arlo Guthrie, Leonard Cohen … ). At the foothills in the evenings, they watch their neighbours’ television through uncurtained windows, making up the dialogue for shows like Charlie’s Angels, Little House on the Prairie, or Brady Bunch re-runs. They cycle, Patty plays basketball, Rachel writes.

When Rachel is thirteen, while watching neighborhood television, they see their father appear on the news. Knowing it must be something important, they follow the line of flight of a Police helicopter overhead, arrive at a gathering of Police vehicles and staff, and learn a girl has gone missing, and a bloodied sock is all that’s been found so far. Rachel realises it’s not a wild animal attack – her faith in her father tells her: if it were an animal attack, her father would not have been called in.

The victim is found, dead and trussed in a particularly unusual  position, which is to become the “call sign” of the killer who continues to kill over months. Although everyone is warned not to go up into the hills, people do – the sisters too – and further killings happen. The details of each case are held back from the press, but somehow one or two “info-snips” make the front page.

Rachel, her family knows, sometimes has visions, which often precede events. Now her visions start showing her the killer in action, and she is torn between letting herself waken, or staying in the dream to try to see something her father can use. But her visionary dreams unsettle her so much, her father tells her to stop letting them draw her in. They continue, but she stops passing on what she sees.

As the case of the serial killer continues, taking its toll on her father and the reputation of the local Police, Rachel and Patty continue to grow and develop as all young teens do. Rachel decides to contrive a situation which will bring the killer to them. Their misguided attempt to help causes further trouble for their father. To his shame, the FBI are called and take over. An arrest is made, and although Rachel is able to convince him of her evidence they have arrested the wrong man, he con do nothing.

Thirty years on, after losing her father to lung cancer, Patty becoming a pro basketballer, Rachel studying forensic psychology and becoming a fully fledged writer, Rachel who has remained sure the killer is still at large, begins traveling and tracking killings which fit the same modus operandi.

How successful can she be in trying to put things right?

Reviewed by Lynne Street

After Her
by Joyce Maynard
Published by Harper Collins (William Morrow imprint)
ISBN 9780062291844 (international, paperback)
ISBN 9780062257390 (hard cover)

Book Review: Bones of the Lost, by Kathy Reichs

This book is available in bookstores now. cv_bones_of_the_lost

Kathy Reichs’ Bones of the Lost is her eighth in the series upon which the television series Bones, featuring forensic anthropologist Temperence Brennan, is based. Fans of Reichs’ previous novels in the series will have no surprises or difficulties adjusting expectations of the main character. Duffers like me, for whom this has been my first encounter with the Reichs’ Tempe, will have to adjust to some differences between the two characters in their medium.

It’s not too difficult to switch perceptions – after finishing Bones of the Lost I’m wishing the TV Temperence was more like the book Tempe. The book Tempe now seems more ” real” than the spectacularly television-chick Temperence.

Even their workplaces now seem at odds. The TV set of the Smithsonian (to which I have never been anywhere near) no longer “feels” like a real anthroplogist’s forensic lab. Too much glass and chrome I guess.

The story is a double conundrum for Ms Brennan – a case of a hit-and-run girl’s death needs examining and closure, and a government agency urgently needs her expertise in Afghanistan to prove or disprove two murders of local natives by a US soldier.

In Afghanistan she meets her adult daughter, a member of the forces in action over there.

As she applies her expertise to the two exhumed local natives, her discoveries prove the US soldier’s innocence – but give her clues relevant to the case of the hit-and-run girl’s death.

Back in the states, her work continues, and develops into an investigation into people smuggling and junior sexual slavery. Of course she puts the pieces together. Isn’t that the way of Bones?

I absolutely loved this book, will never watch the TV show again with the same expectations, and am off to track down copies of Reichs’ earlier Temperence Brennan novels.

Reviewed by Lynne Street

Bones of the Lost
by Kathy Reichs
Published by Random House
ISBN 9780434021161
Also available as an e-book

Book review: The 9th Girl by Tami Hoag SPOILER ALERT

cv_the_9th_girlThis book is in bookstores now.

Sam Kovik, detective, has his New Year’s Eve propelled from routine duty to the beginning of a gruesome hunt through new and archived information to track the twisted maniac dubbed Doc Holiday who celebrates every festive season by torturing and killing a female victim, and leaving the body where it is easily found. Over ten years, across many states, his handiwork shows up.

The latest is tagged as a zombie by the limo driver whose vehicle she popped up in front of after she was bounced from the boot (US trunk) of the car in front of him, in party-mood traffic. The tag is picked up by the press (of course), and Kovik is ordered to get to grips with any similar cases as he also tracks down the killer.

In a side story, Kyle Liska, a young teen, separated from the high school “in-crowd” by his artistic nature and empathy with other underdogs, becomes embroiled in a chase after one of his friends who disappears.

For a while it seems the two cases are one, but for the differences – the girl who has disappeared is not timed to match another holiday season, and it is not a year since the last Doc Holiday kill.

Working his way through old case files, the latest Medical Examiner’s findings of the “zombie” death, Kovik and his partner – Kyle’s mother, Nikki – start to notice more discrepancies than similarities between old cases and the latest.

Hoag lets us view parts of her fascinating crime story from the point of view of the perpetrator, who has delusions (don’t they all) that play out to fill an obscure hole in his state of mind. When we realise that the “zombie” kill is not his handiwork, we are thrown into a more twisted puzzle than before.

There are moments of sickening horror when we examine one family’s life, and more when we see Doc holiday (who soon has decided to use the tag as his own) at his worst work.

Fascinating to read, and a definite drawcard for Hoag’s other works.

Reviewed by Lynne Street.

The 9th Girl
by Tami Hoag
Published by Hachette New Zealand
ISBN: 9781409109600

Book review: Close to the Bone by Stuart MacBride

cv_close_to_the_doneThis book is in bookshops now

The lovely DCI Steel is at it again – overloading McRae and the station’s crew with cases as fast as they arise: missing tramps, a missing teenage couple, a film crew obsessed with their production in the “magic witch” genre, drug bosses and drug gang wars, victims rolling out of the dark – left, right and centre, macabre ritualistic mayhem… The series’ favourite characters – McRae’s co-workers – are as always backing up his investigations with their expertise or plain old foot work, and we enjoy their company, if not their antics.

The opening chapter grabbed me from the start – but fooled me. You’ll see what I mean when you grab your own copy and start reading. That image is revisited in a crime, and again during investigations which lead to discoveries about other crimes, which lead to … a whole interwoven mesh of murder, misunderstandings and mayhem. Lovely. Riveting. “Put your light out – I’m trying to sleep,” stuff.

Having begun the series (Cold Granite, Dying Light and Flesh House, and yes I missed number three) I know MacBride has maintained the standard of the series so can assure readers there’ll be no disappointment here. Apart from the obvious attraction of McRae’s crime scenes and investigations, I found myself looking forward to the dialogue between colleagues – whether aloud or internal, with or without the lovely Steel. Just a quick sampler – relax, not a spoiler:

“The yellow-grey bones were laid out … like some sort of art installation: a toothless skull resting above crossed femurs, the bottom jaw on the other side, then the pelvis and sternum, all held within a rough circle made up of ribs and vertebrae. Little piles of soil dotted the roof around it.

Logan pointed. ‘Can’t have been there for long. There’s no moss or anything growing on them.’

‘Ah.’ Burt Reynolds from the council nodded. ‘Maybe it’s Keith Richards?’ “

Great imagery and descriptive writing bring each scene to light; characters are realised with flair and foibles alike, plot intricacies are so almost impossible for a reader to untangle that one HAS to keep reading. And I will enjoy reading the rest of the series.

Book 8 in the Logan McRae crime series

Reviewed by Lynne Street

Close to the Bone
by Stuart MacBride
Publishered by HarperCollins, 2013
ISBN: 9780007344277