Mesmerizing, heart-breaking first book in reverse order trilogy

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The Darkness by Ragnar Jonasson

Book Review:  5 out of 5 star rating

Detective Inspector Hulda Hermannsdottir is being forced into a slightly earlier retirement, being replaced by a younger person.  She dreads her future although she has met a very nice man who she thinks might be an answer to her loneliness.  Before she cleans out her desk at the police station, she’s been given an opportunity to look into a cold case of her choice.  She knows immediately which case it will be.  A young Russian women who was trying to find asylum in Iceland was found dead and her death was deemed a suicide. However, Hulda knows that the officer who investigated this case didn’t always do a very thorough job and she has a feeling that there was more to this case than he found.

I was so very impressed with this book and can’t wait to read everything else this author has written.  His characterization of Hulda is excellent and very detailed.  This woman has had a successful career as a police officer but hasn’t always been accepted by the men in the department.  She’s determined to end her career on a high note by solving this cold case but as each day approaches her retirement, errors are made and her situation deteriorates.  She begins to pin her hopes on the man she has recently met and envisions a happier future.  I loved Hulda and felt complete empathy for her.  Secrets in her past are alluded to, which when revealed are absolutely heartbreaking.  Also the story of this Russian immigrant is so timely and tragic.

This is the first book in the Hidden Iceland Trilogy.  The series is being told in reverse order so the next book will be set 25 years prior to this book.  It’s an unusual format for a trilogy and I think I may have preferred reading Hulda’s story in chronological order since now I know how her story ends.  But this first book is so brilliantly written that I know I will be anxiously awaiting the next one.  This author is one who isn’t afraid of taking risks and definitely knows how to write Nordic Noir.  The book is mesmerizing and heart breaking and the ending will chill you to the bone.

Most highly recommended.

This book was given to me by the publisher in return for an honest review.

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Entertaining, thought-provoking spy novel

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Transcription by Kate Atkinson

Book Review:  4 out of 5 star rating

It’s 1940 and Juliette Armstrong has been recruited to work for M15.  She’s 18 years old and quite naïve.  She’s been given the tedious job of transcribing recordings of meetings of British Fascist sympathizers.  But she’s soon pulled even deeper into this frightening espionage world.  When the war is over, Juliette believes the past is behind her.  But she learns that there are still consequences that need to be dealt with.

There are sometimes light hearted moments in this novel that are deceiving because this is quite a deep, thought-provoking work.  While I very much enjoyed Juliette’s witty remarks, there are layers and layers to explore in this book.  I feel like starting the book from the beginning again and dissecting it, scene by scene, which is not something I’ve ever enjoyed doing.   The fragility of loyalty, how thin the line can be between “them” and “us”, how contradictory our inner beliefs can be and how history can be re-shaped in its telling are all explored.

On the negative side, I did get bogged down some with all of the boring transcriptions but I don’t really see how the author could have gotten around those.  Also, while most of the book is very realistic and believable, there were some scenes toward the end that were a bit far-fetched.

Overall, this is was a very interesting and enjoyable read.  Recommended.

This book was given to me by the publisher in return for an honest review.

Quite entertaining

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Lies by T.M. Logan

Book Review:  4 out of 5 star rating

When Joe Lynch unsuspectingly follows his wife’s car one day at the bequest of his small son who wants to “surprise” mommy, he sets off a series of terrible events.  He’s now being framed for a murder that he believes never even happened.  Just when you think things can’t get worse, they do and the noose keeps getting tighter and tighter around Joe’s neck.

This is quite an addictive book and I really cared for Joe and his plight.  He’s such a good guy, good father and good husband that the course of events seemed so very unfair.  Social media and technology play a heavy hand in this suspenseful thriller.  It was quite scary to see how easier this app or that app can be downloaded onto your phone and your privacy is completely gone.  How realistic the tale was, I’m not sure but it was certainly a fun ride.  And I never saw the end coming.  Not only was this a fast thriller but it also touched on the fragility of our relationships with others and how destructive lies can be.

Recommended.

This book was given to me by the publisher in return for an honest review.

 

Haunting, touching psychological drama

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The Boy at the Keyhole by Stephen Giles

Book Review:  4 out of 5 star review

Nine-year-old Samuel misses his mother.  She’s left him alone with the housekeeper Ruth.  Ruth as told Samuel that his mother had to go to America to try to save the family business.  She didn’t even say goodbye and left in the middle of the night while he was sleeping.  But she’s been gone months and he begins to suspect that something has happened to her.  He begins to believe that Ruth has murdered his mother.

The comparisons of this book to the work of Shirley Jackson and Daphne Du Maurier convinced me that it was a must read.  I believe the book is closer to the work of Jackson than Du Maurier.  The author has created a very tense, suspenseful atmosphere.  At points in the book, you think you know where it’s headed but then the author turns it around, again and again, until you’re really not sure what to expect.  My heart was touched by the anguished plight of young Samuel.  It’s quite a sad story, either way the author decided to go.  I had a hard time putting it down and found it to be a very satisfying read.

Recommended.

This book was given to me by the publisher in return for an honest review.

 

Excellent addition to the Marlowe collection

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Only To Sleep by Lawrence Osborne

Book Review:  4 out of 5 star rating

At 72 years of age, Philip Marlowe has retired.  But when he’s offered a case by an insurance company, he decides to have one last adventure.  They want Marlowe to investigate the death of Donald Zinn.  They’ve paid Zinn’s widow a very large sum of money but something doesn’t seem right and they think Marlowe is the man to get to the bottom of it.

Who doesn’t know and love Philip Marlowe?  What a perfect delight to have an author such as Lawrence Osborne bring him to life once again.  The Robert Chandler Estate asked Mr. Osborne to write this book and they couldn’t have picked a better author to do the job.  Osborne has done a wonderful job of creating an older Marlowe.  And he has done an excellent job of depicting a man who has led an adventurous life but now is headed to a more sedentary life and all of the conflicting emotions that go along with that.  So enjoyable to once again join Marlowe as he takes on his last investigation.

This is a bit different from Mr. Osborne’s other books in that he adapts the Chandler style of telling this story.  But his particular talents still shine through.  He’s lived in many countries and has quite a knack for detailing each location that he brings his characters to.  Most of this book takes place in different locations in Mexico and the author brings his readers right there with him.  With all the sights and smells and colors, you’ll completely forget that you’re not actually there.  I do hope that one day Mr. Osborne will once again bring Mr. Marlowe out of retirement for another adventure.

Recommended.

This book was given to me by the publisher in return for an honest review.

 

Very impressive debut novel

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The Moment Before Drowning by James Brydon

Book Review:  5 out of 5 star rating

Capitaine Jacques le Garrec has returned to Paris in disgrace.  He was a hero in the French Resistance but now is facing charges of a terrible crime that occurred in Algiers, where he was working in the Army Intelligence Service.  While he’s waiting trial, he’s asked to investigate the unsolved murder of a local teenage girl.  The French town where this murder took place has a history of German occupation that has left its impact on the residents.  As le Garrec looks into the murder, his memories of what happened in Algiers often collides with the investigation.

I’m very impressed by this author’s debut novel.  It’s a short novel but Mr. Brydon packs in so much emotion, suspense, tension and heartbreak.  This story literally took my breath away and has left me shaken.  Be forewarned that this book is not for the faint hearted.  It’s a brutally violent book with graphic descriptions of horrendous torture.  Capitaine le Garrec is a broken man, torn apart by his work in Algiers.  The moral dilemma he’s faced with is a tragic one.   There was never a moment in this book that I wasn’t completely engrossed.  The ending was pure perfection.  This book will haunt me for some time to come.  This author is one to be reckoned with and I hope his next literary work will be published soon.

Most highly recommended.

This book was given to me by the publisher in return for an honest review.

 

 

Believable? Not really – but who cares!

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Bring Me Back by B.A. Paris

Book Review:  4 out of 5 star rating

When the love of Finn’s life Layla disappears at a service station, he’s a suspect but is soon cleared though he hasn’t told the police the whole story.  His grief is shared by Layla’s sister Ellen and it brings them together.  Ten years after Layla’s disappearance, Finn and Ellen are engaged to be married.  But now signs start appearing that Layla may still be alive and not too happy about the upcoming wedding.

I really could not put this book down!  I enjoyed this author’s two previous books and this was no exception.  The author really knows how to ramp up tension.  It’s a short book and just flew by.  I never expected quality literature when I chose this one but Ms. Paris’ books are fun and entertaining and that’s all I ask for in a light thriller like this one.

Recommended for when you want a fun, fast read.

This book was given to me by the publisher in return for an honest review.

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Entertaining exotic mystery

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The Knowledge by Martha Grimes

Book Review:  4 out of 5 star rating

As David and Rebecca Moffit exit a cab in front of an exclusive club/casino/art gallery called Artemis, they are tragically shot to death.  The shooter then jumps in the cab, points a gun at the cab driver, Robbie Parsons, and tells him to drive.

Det. Superintendent Richard Jury becomes involved in the murder case due to the fact that he had met the victims two days before their death and felt an instant bond with David.  He’s determined to find the murderer as the investigation moves from London to Reno, Nevada to Tanzanian gem mines and even to Africa.

While I don’t often read cozy mysteries any longer, Martha Grimes is one author that I always return to.  I’ve read each of her books and it was quite a pleasure to once again spend time with her unique, eccentric characters.  This book also introduced us to a gang of young children, particularly the clever Patty Haight, who were all delightful.  Ms. Grimes’ books are character and humor driven and are unlike any other mystery series.  From Richard Jury to his aristocrat friend Melrose Plant to dear Wiggins, Marshall Trublood, Carole-Anne, Diane and Vivian and even the mischievous cat Cyril, all such beloved characters.  I did miss Aunt Agatha in this particular book.  Logic and believability may be lacking in the mystery department but her books more than make up for it in the character department.

Recommended as are all of Martha Grimes’ books.

This book was given to me by the publisher in return for an honest review.

 

Extraordinary character study

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The Waters & the Wild by DeSales Harrison

Book Review:  5 out of 5 star rating

One of Daniel Abend’s therapy patients commits suicide.  She was an addict and was depressed so he thought he understood what had happened.  But when he starts to receive mysterious packages and letters, he starts to think there may have more to her death than he first thought.  The letters and packages take a more sinister turn when they lead him to believe that his teenage daughter is in danger.  Whomever is sending Daniel these notes seems to know a lot about his past, which causes Daniel to visit his past mistakes in life.

Writing the above blurb outlining the basic plot of this book makes it sound like an ordinary thriller.  Yes, there’s plenty of suspense, but it’s so much more than that.  It’s an extraordinary, multi-layered look at the life of a man whose sorrows and regrets run deep.  The writing is so luscious, I couldn’t get enough of it.  The author chose to tell the story through a confession written to a priest, which added another layer of intrigue.  It’s a dark, tragic tale and one I’ll never forget.  This is an intense literary work of art and completely took my breath away.  Kudos to the author on his debut novel.  If it doesn’t receive many awards, I’ll be very surprised.

Most highly recommended.

This book was given to me by the publisher in return for an honest review.

Another delightful mystery from Ms. George

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The Punishment She Deserves by Elizabeth George

Book Review:  5 out of 5 star rating

Ian Druitt was a respected deacon of the Church of England.  When he turns up dead while in police custody due to an accusation of pedophilia, it’s up to Detective Chief Superintendent Isabelle Ardery to sort out whether it was suicide or murder.  She reluctantly teams up with DS Barbara Havers and they set off to historic Ludlow to investigate.  Ardery is battling more demons than a possible murderer.  She’s fighting with her ex-husband who is determined to move out of the country with their two sons and Ardery’s been hitting the vodka bottle too often.  She’s also determined to finally find enough reason to call for the transfer of Havers out of her district.

I’ve have been a fan of this author since her first book many years ago.  Ms. George is a master at meticulously plotting out her complex mysteries, but where she truly excels is in her characters.  If you decide to read something by this author, and I hope you do, you should start with her first book, “A Great Deliverance”, so you have a good understanding of the background of each of the characters and can grow to love them as I have.  Her newest book is a long one, over 700 pages on my Kindle, but you’ll get no complaints about that from me as the more time I spend with these characters, the happier I am.   This is a complex tale and one of the best that this author has written.  I became totally engrossed in the mystery and I so very much enjoyed Ms. George’s humorous telling of Havers’ attempts at tap dancing.  Ms. George remains my favorite English mystery writer (though she’s American).  I’m already longing for her next book.

Most highly recommended

This book was given to me by the publisher in return for an honest review.