Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A Cold Case Makes Dr. Brennan Confront the Past

Dr. Tempe Brennan is surprised to be invited to a meeting on a cold case investigation. She is even more surprised when the case involves the murder of young girls in Vermont as well as Charlotte, North Carolina. The case is similar to the Canadian case in which Anique Pomerleau tortured and killed young girls and almost succeeded in killing Tempe. The similarity sends a cold shudder over her. She worked on that case with Andrew Ryan, her sometime lover, but he's left the force battling grief over the death of his daughter from a heroin overdose. Now she needs to reconnect with him to solve the latest crimes.

The plot moves swiftly forced by the necessity to find the killer before more girls die. Tempe Brennan pulls you into her world. You can't help feeling the sense of urgency she exudes. I enjoyed the forensic science, although autopsy results may not be everyone's cup of tea. The repetitious descriptions of Detective Slidell got old, but the involvement of Tempe's eccentric mother was a bright spot.

If you're a Reichs fan, this is a good addition to the series. If you llike
murder mysteries with technical detail, you'll enjoy this one.

I reviewed this book for Net Galley.  

Monday, July 14, 2014

A Columbine Style School Shooting

Assistant DA, Rachael Knight, and her friend Detective Bailey Keller are summoned to the scene of what appears to be a Columbine copy-cat shooting spree. However, the findings at the scene don't line up. The supposed killers committed suicide, or did they? Dr. Shoe, the medical examiner, says the dead boys
couldn't be the shooters.

This is the beginning of a tense search for the messed up teenagers who are on a killing rampage. The plot has many twists which keeps you reading to figure out what will happen next. I wouldn't recommend this book, if you're squeamish about mass murder, but the plot moves quickly and the author doesn't give undue space to the horror of the scene.

The novel is a fast paced crime thriller. There's hardly time to get to absorb one set of facts before being hit by another twist. Although the subject matter was uncomfortable, the author used the book to give insights into the psychological makeup of this kind of killer as well as the legal problems surrounding trying juvenile killers. The background on previous school shootings added reality to the story.

I enjoyed the book. However, it was because of the fast pace rather than the characters. So much was happening that the characters became more talking heads interviewing suspects than real people. In this book that wasn't a limitation because the interviews were the meat of the book. However, if you enjoy character driven novels, this is definitely plot driven and probably not for you.

I reviewed this book for Net Galley.

Two Women in Antoine de Saint Exupery's Life

Mignonne Lachapelle, a young fashion designer, leaves her comfortable life in Montreal to pursue success in New York. At first she is chagrined to learn that Madame Professor Vera Fiche, one of her teachers at the New York Fashion School, has stolen her designs and that the show created a sensation. At first she wants acknowledgment and nothing more to do with Madame Fiche, but when she's offered a chance to collaborate with her former professor, she agrees.

She knew Antoine in Montreal, but was surprised to meet him again in New York and in the Garment District. Through her fashion design work, she meets Consuelo, Antoine’s fiery wife. The triangle is set up. Antoine seeks Mignonne as an easier love than Consuelo. Consuelo wants to get him back, although she also has affairs, and Mignonne is forced to work with Consuelo although she is in love with Antoine.

Mignonne, the main character, is fictional, but the Saint-Exuperys are real people and their lives parallel the outline of the story. Both had a number of extra-marital affairs, but the details in this book are imagined by the author.

The fashion world of New York during WWII is well described and fascinating. However, the plot moves around a great deal and is made more complex by the structure which interleaves chapters by Mignonne in the first person with chapters by Consuelo in the third person. There are also long flashbacks which disrupt the flow of the story.

The most fascinating part for me was the discussion between Mignonne and Antoine about the artistic constraints of writing and fashion design. The parallels are helped by the fact that Saint-Exupery is working on The Little Prince during the the novel.

I enjoyed the descriptions of war time New York, but I found the love triangle hard to follow at times. Although I don't have reservations about using historical characters in fiction, I thought the portrayal of Consuelo was unfair. However, if you're interested in the WWII fashion world and in Saint-Exupereys life at the time when he wanted to return to liberate France and worked on The Little Prince, it's worth reading.

I reviewed this book for the Amazon Vine Program.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Estranged Sisters Search for Their Inheritance

When their mother, Josie, dies, Emily and Rose return to Mill River for the reading of the will. The sisters have been estranged because of something that happened many years ago. In the will they are chagrined to learn that their mother's stipulates they must cooperate with each other to find the key to a safety deposit box that will hold their inheritance.

Although the main plot is ploy to get the sisters back together, a secondary plot involves Josie bringing her two young daughters to Mill River to live with her aunt Ivy after her husband dies
in a mysterious accident. Toggling back and forth between the plots gives us the background for why the sisters are estranged as well as why the death of their father was so traumatic.

The setting is a great escape. Mill River is exactly the sort of small town you might choose if you were looking for a place to heal. The characters, particularly Ivy and Father O'Brien, bring life to the story. The plot revolves around the destructiveness of lies and alcoholism, both of which are good topics, but it feels thin. The author tries to keep your interest by doling out tidbits about why the sisters are estranged and what happened to their father, but it feels like a way to drag out the story.

It's an easy book to read. I recommend it if you like stories about small town life and secrets.

I reviewed this book for Net Galley.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Teenage Sisters Face Murder and Ghosts

After their mother's death, fifteen-year-old Sam and her ten-year-old sister, Ollie, spend the summer living with their father. Their father and mother have not lived together for years, although they seem to love each other. The mother lived with the daughters in Eugene, Oregon. Bear, the father, lived in a meadow keeping bees outside of Terrebonne, Oregon.

Sam has spent summers with Bear for years. Ollie chose to stay with her mother, so this is her first summer in the meadow, and it's not easy. Ollie hasn't spoken since her mother's death because she sees Shimmerings, ghostly figures who follow her around. She knows other people won't believe her, so she doesn't talk.

Coping with their mother's death is difficult enough, but Sam and Ollie find the body of a woman floating in the creek near their meadow. Bear has been acting strange, and he has a jacket that could have belonged to the murdered woman. Sam is terrified that Bear will be suspected of the murder and her tenuous family will be split apart again.

Sam is an engaging character. She tries hard to preserve her family. However, she is a teenager and the decisions she makes are often not well planned and lead to more problems then they solve. Ollie is a strange character. If you like ghost stories, you'll find her Shimmerings fascinating, but it adds an element of unreality to the story that it's difficult to accept.

The family situation with the split between the parents is unusual. Bear comes across as an introverted character who is not well prepared to cope with two daughters. The reasons for the split between the parents aren't clear, but one suspects that Bear can't take the responsibilities of working in a major city and being a committed father living in a family unit.

The setting is beautifully described from the flowers, trees, and bees of the meadow to the colors of the Shimmerings. The plot, however, stretches credibility. The secondary characters from the teenage boy who befriends Sam to his mother, an angry shopkeeper, and his father, a strange artist, are unusual and sometimes hard to accept as real. Likewise, Sam's involvement in solving the mystery and Ollie's seeing ghosts can be hard to believe.

I recommend the book is you like murder mysteries, ghost stories, and unique family arrangements.

I reviewed this book for the Amazon Vine Program.

Art and Love in WWII Provence

Just before the start of WWII, Andre moves with his bride Lisette from Paris to Roussillon in the south of France. Andre's grandfather, Pascal, is ill, possibly dying, and Andre wants to care for him. Lisette understands, and she loves Andre, but she fears that her dream of working in a Paris art gallery is gone forever.

In Roussillon, Lisette gets a surprise. Pascal has collected impressionist paintings from Pissaro and Cezanne. He tells her the history of the pictures and stories of the artists. After Pascal dies, France is drawn into WWII. Paintings, particularly those of the impressionists, are being destroyed so Andre hides the paintings before enlisting and going to the front.

This book is both a love story and a look at art history before and during WWII. The stories about the painters are fascinating as is the historical background on how artists were treated. Marc Chagal and his wife Bella are characters in the story and present a picture of the plight of Jewish artists.

I found the book fascinating. The art history and the background of WWII makes the story of another time come alive. However, the novel moves slowly.

Lisette, the main character, grows through her determination to survive the war. In the opening scenes, she comes across as spoiled and resentful. Getting to know Pascal and hearing the history of his pictures changes her outlook, but real growth comes when she is left alone in Roussillion. She realizes how much she loves Andre and determines to survive the war and recover the paintings. Her list enumerates the things she must do to survive the war and cope with the problems of Nazi occupied France. While her struggle is interesting, the pace is very leisurely.

I recommend the book if you enjoy the combination of art, history, and romance, but be prepared for a long read.

I reviewed this book for the Amazon Vine Program.

Monday, July 7, 2014

A Modern Locked Room Mystery

Jessica Daniel, recently promoted to Detective Sargent, is assigned an impossible case. The body of a woman is found in her locked home. While Jessica and her immediate superior, Cole, try to figure out how the killer could have gotten into the house, another body turns up. This time a man is found strangled in his locked house.

The case continues to frustrate the police, and their morale isn't improved by the newspapers accusing them of incompetence. Jessica is particularly frustrated because someone is leaking information to a reporter on the Herald. Although she and Cole are following all leads and trying to figure out the puzzle of the locked room, nothing seems to work for them.

If you enjoy police procedurals, this is an easy book to read without any serious violence and bloody visuals. The plot is interesting, but it's not hard to figure out who the killer is, and the twists are predictable.

I felt the book bogged down because of all the time is spent on Jesssica's life outside of the police. She is in some ways a difficult character to like. She seems more aggressive and out of control than you would expect in a newly promoted police officer.

The novel is set in Manchester. I enjoyed the glimpses of the city. Although not lovely, the background makes the story believable.

I reviewed this book for the Amazon Vine Program.