Fabulous Fiction Firsts #97

Oh, how I hate being late to the party! At the American Library Association Midwinter in Philly last week, the hot topic was nordic mystery and the most eagerly anticipated read was The Redbreast* (and I am still #13 on the waiting list!)

People-in-the-know are calling Norwegian Jo Nesbo's English debut "an epic new novel, brilliant in scope and design - a deep and fearless investigation of betrayal spanning two centures and three continents". It also introduces to North American readers Police Detective Harry Hole who finds himself sitting on top of an international conspiracy during a presidential visit to Oslo.

This winner of the Glass Key prize for the best Nordic crime novel, "fans of Henning Mankell and Karin Fossum will have a seriously difficult time putting down", writes Bruce Tierney of BookPage.

*= Starred Reviews (Jessica: Enjoyed yours in LJ)

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #95

Shortlisted for the CWA's New Blood Dagger Award, this compulsively readable debut novel by Kitty Sewell is dark and intriguing.

Ice Trap* is set in Moose Creek, a tiny outpost in Canada's Northwest Territories where Dr. Dafydd Woodruff returns after an absence of 14 years to investigate a paternity claim against him. He was sure he never had sex with Sheila Hailey, a head nurse who is beautiful, cruel and manipulative but the positive DNA test clearly points to Sheila’s twin being his.

Sewell’s skillful mixing of long buried secrets and past shame, depiction of Dafydd’s crumbling marriage, and the puzzle surrounding his newfound family make for a compelling read.

For other mysteries set in the Canadian arctic, try The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney and Consumption by Kevin Patterson.

* = Starred Review

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #93

This engrossing British police procedural marks the debut of Elena Forbes and her Detective Inspector Mark Tartaglia – a stubborn cop who mystery fans will no doubt grow to love – much like Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus.

When 14 year-old Gemma Kramer's broken body is found on the floor of a church, the official ruling is suicide, that is - until a witness saw her kissing a much older man and the toxicology report comes back showing traces of GHB. Before long, Tartaglia has three more suspicious deaths on his hands and is looking at a charismatic psychopath with a terrifying predilection for lonely girls and deadly heights.

Critics are calling Die With Me* “an intelligently plotted, convincing and nicely textured read”, and Forbes is “definitely one to watch”. Fans of the television series Prime Suspect might want to check this one out.

One more thing... if you are not already a fan of David Lawrence's Detective Stella Mooney series, we also highly recommend the latest : Down Into Darkness*.

* = Starred Reviews

Good Christmas Read

Ever read any of the Melanie Travis Mysteries?

Well, Jingle Bell Bark is no exception to Laurien Berenson's long list of Poodle inspired mystery novels. When Melanie son's School bus driver Henry, is suddenly taken off their route and replaced by teenaged back-talking Annie Gault, Melanie and her friend Alice are curious to find out what happened to Henry. When they show up at his house unannounced, his next door neighbor informs Melanie and Alice that Henry the bus driver has suddenly died. Seeing that Henry's two dogs Remington and Pepper have been left to fend for themselves, Melanie wastes no time scooping them up and shuffling them over to her Aunt Peg's kennel in Greenwich. The book is a nice fast paced holiday mystery in a great series of novels.

Kolla & Brock: Great Police Procedurals

Sergeant Kathy Kolla and Detective Chief Inspector David Brock of Scotland Yard are the backbone of a fantastic police procedural series set in London and the surrounding area. Barry Maitland’s stories are nuanced, detailed, and fascinating. Plots can involve you with Marx and his descendants, stamp collecting, shopping malls, Jamaican immigrants, or Islamic terrorism. Kolla and Brock have strong investigative skills and are committed to discovering and uncovering the truth, despite administrative or political impediments. I have three more to go. It is a comfort to know that if I am struggling to make headway in How to Read the Bible or Hunger’s Bride that I have an involving good read as a break.

Read them all and read them in order:

No Time For Goodbye By Linwood Barclay

A teenage girl, Cynthia Bigge, wakes up one morning to find her entire family gone; they’ve simply vanished! Are they dead or alive? Why did they leave her? Will they ever come back for her? All of these questions (and many more) are answered 25 years later.

Bravo to Barclay! What an amazing storyteller!

The Secret History

For anyone looking for a fun read, definitely pick up a copy of Donna Tart's The Secret History. By "fun" I mean this was a real "page-turner." There's so few new mysteries out there these days that are actually impressive, it made this somewhat morbid book extremely compelling. It may sound like an exaggeration for a modern mystery, but it could be described as "Dostoyevsky-esque." The story is narrated by a pathological liar, and the opening scene reveals that a murder has taken place that the narrator and his friends were involved in. The true mystery of the book lies in what lead up to the murder as well as the narrator's examination of the nature of his college life. The Secret History plays with ideas of guilt, punishment, and social pathology paralleled with everyday apathy.

Girl at Sea...romance, mystery and Italy!

Despite the semi-hoochie book cover this is a smart, thoughtful, adventurous tale about a 17 year old girl named Clio, on a whirlwind summer mystery trip with her eccentric father on a yacht in Italy. The cast of characters includes her dad's girlfriend, Julia an English researcher on a mysterious archealogical dive, her bubbly daughter, Elsa and Julia's very cute research assistant, Aidan. A centuries old mystery about a sunken ship, Pompeii, scuba diving, art supplies, jellyfish and tattoos all figure in this quirky good book. Maureen Johnson has done it again with Girl at Sea.

Voices heard year round

In recent years there have been oodles of Scandinavian mystery novels to lose your self in. I’ve become particularly engrossed with Icelandic author Arnaldur Indridason and his best selling & award winning crime novels featuring detective Erlendur. (I’m not usually into mystery novels and I can’t seem to get enough of this series!)

Recently translated into English are Jar City, Silence of the Grave, Voices and most recently The Draining Lake. Voices begins with Erlendur as his usual somber and misanthropic self, thinking about his past and his troubled daughter. It’s Christmas time and there’s been a rather shocking and interesting murder at one of Reykjavik’s largest hotels. Erlendur and his usual cohorts are thrown into the case and are soon involved in figuring out the mystery of an abused child as well. Christmas is often a season for children, old and young, past and present, and that is surely true in this novel.

Promise Me

Harlan Coben's Promise Me gets a four out of ten in my personal book rating system. This 2006 release was reviewed as being a very exciting exploration into one of Coben's most popular characters- it was the first book centered around Myron Bolitar in six years.

While this still makes it a good read for fans of the series, it doesn't change the fact that it would be lackluster for any first time readers of Coben's work. The story gave a sense of constantly waiting for the plot to take off, but rather than feeling suspensful it instead felt a bit droning. Not that it was terrible, the book did delve into two interesting topics: whether sworn promises outweigh unspoken understandings, and where the line should be drawn in adult involvement in children's lives.

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