Saturday, February 28, 2015

A Lord and His Lady Team Fight Crime at New Scotland Yard

Kathleen Doyle, recently promoted to detective sargent and married for less than a year to Chief Inspector, Lord Michael Acton, is learning about her job and how to be successful in marriage. After a dangerous adventure in the previous book that involved jumping off a bridge, Doyle is acquiescing to her overly protective husband's demands and going through cold case files.

Going through the cold cases lands her in the case of a serial killer who is murdering people who got away with murder. Acton has his problems also. A reporter is bent on exposing some of Acton's dangerous activities. and there is someone in the department who is furthering the case. Doyle becomes caught up in the case when a criminal Acton prosecuted tries to ensnare her in the plot.

This is an enjoyable read. Doyle and Acton are amusing, trying to juggle professional and personal life. There are plenty of interesting minor characters like Detective Sargent Munoz, who is Doyle's rival, and Williams, a newly minted detective inspector, who is Doyle's ex-boyfriend and now friend.

There were, however, some things I didn't like about the book. The investigation of the cold case murders has a number of threads and while the case is resolved at the end, I didn't feel that enough clues were given during the story. Too many other threads distracted from the crime and these didn't all get resolved at the end.

Another petty annoyance is Doyle's use of 'my friend' as a tag when speaking to almost anyone. The book was written from her point of view, and I often felt her thoughts were too self-referential and not related to crime solving. I also found Acton's over protectiveness disturbing. He was constantly tracking her by her cellphone, to the extent she had to leave it with other people to evade him.

However, if you like a mystery with not much bloodshed, and with likable characters, this is a good choice. Since this is the third book in the series you two other chances to get to know the characters' history.

I reviewed this book for Net Galley.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Mind of an Assassin

Jon works for the Tattooed Man as a hit man. Because he's good at his job and does whatever the Tattooed Man assigns, he lives well, but he's a loner. When he meets up with Andy, an old school friend, that changes. Andy is out of work, and he has a wife a baby.

Jon realizes that his friend has something he doesn't, and he wants to help him. This is the beginning of real changes in his life. When he does the bidding of the Tattooed Man, he functions as a slave, but now he has a chance to act on his own.

This is a very psychological book. Jon is a complex character. Cross does a good job of presenting Jon's background and development without overdoing the backstory. Andy is also a well done character moving from being a loser to losing himself.

If you enjoy psychological novels, I recommend this book. It deals with an interesting interpretation of what it means to be free or a slave.

I reviewed this book for Net Galley.

A Fast Paced Fantasy Adventure

Neil Vapros, a member of the powerful Vapros family, wants to be an assassin to impress his father. He is assigned to kill the grandfather, titular head of the Taurlum clan. Once in the Taurlum mansion, he looks for the grandfather, but instead runs into two young Tarulum brothers, Darius and Michael. They give chase and Neil is barely able to escape.

The three primary families of Altryon: Vapros, Taurlum, and Celerium, have been given special powers designed to help protect the city from the dangers of the world outside the city walls, but for years they have been fighting each other using their powers to kill each other. Now there is a powerful emperor, but instead of fostering peace among the families, he appears to be encouraging the feud.

Young adults, teens and preteens, should enjoy this book. It's filled with action, battles, and magical encounters where young people fight to protect their families. The book focuses on plot and action and does it well. However, there is little character development. Neil does grow as he faces the forces arrayed against him, but the other characters remain static.

I recommend this book for anyone who enjoys fast paced action with a touch of magic.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

A Federal Judge, Kidnapping, and a Baby

Federal Judge Diane Manchester, pregnant with her first child, is presiding over the trial of a Colombian drug lord. During the morning's session Escalante threatens her and her baby. Diane refuses to be intimidated, goes to lunch alone, and is kidnapped and dragged into a white van. Billy Manchester, her husband and a brilliant attorney, immediately puts his investigator, PI Max Freeman, on the case.

Although it seems that the Colombian connection is very strong, some things don't add up. There is no ransom demand, or demand to extradite Escalante. Max works his sources on the streets while Billy works his contacts in South America. They are coming up empty and eight-month pregnant Diane's time is running out.

This is the first Max Freeman novel I've read, and I enjoyed it. The case is interesting. Although there are clues, it's hard to figure out who is responsible.

The story is told from different perspectives, Diane, Max, and a girl named Rae who is working with the kidnappers. Diane is a great character. I can hardly imagine how frightening it must be to be kidnapped, kept in a dark hood, handcuffed, and unable to even touch your stomach to verify that the baby is all right.

Rae is also a good character. She doesn't want to be assisting the kidnappers, but what choice does she have?

Max and Billy are also believable. I particularly liked the ending where Max goes deep into Florida in an effort to rescue Diane before it's too late.

If you like mysteries with good characters and an interesting plot, you'll enjoy this book.

I reviewed this book for Net Galley.

An Affluent Suburb Reels from Finding a Dead Baby

Ridgeway NJ, a university town with an affluent population, is not a place where you expect to find an infant buried beside a creek. The creek runs behind the university and twenty years earlier another suspicious death occurred there. The baby's death awakens interest in the old case, and three women are particularly affected.

Molly is recovering from a bout of depression occasioned by the stillborn death of her baby two years ago. She is working as a reporter for the Ridgeway Reader and beginning to find herself again when a coincidence gives her the assignment of the story on the dead baby. Her husband is worried that it will cause a relapse, but Molly knows she needs to pursue this mystery.

Sandy, a high school dropout with an out of control mother, is also affected by the death, but her major worry is that her mother has disappeared, and they are being evicted from their apartment. Sandy is very much alone trying to get her life back in order.

Barbara, married to the chief of police, is trying to be the perfect mother, but her children, particularly her son are having problems, and her husband is preoccupied with the baby's death.

The story is told from the perspective of these three women. The author does a good job of giving each woman a voice and a personal point of view. I liked Sandy. She is a resilient, tough kid given a hard life. Molly was not my favorite character. She was so unsure of herself that she became annoying. I didn't like Barbara at all, but her character was designed to be a bitch.

The plot is well done. Clues are dropped along the way, but you probably won't figure out what happened until the very end. This is a mystery that's quick to read and enjoyable

I reviewed this book for the Amazon Vine Program.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

A Murdered Aboriginal Chief in London

The Kus are a tribe displaced from their native jungle during WWII and relocated to a large house in London. Although they are living in London and the younger members are beginning to assimilate into the new culture, the tribe has retained many of their aboriginal customs.

Aaron, the chief, has been murdered. Since the house is locked up at night, it looks as though one of the Kus committed the murder. When Detective Superintendent Pibble gets the case, he is surprised by the unusual nature of the community. The house has been modified to accommodate tribal customs. The women sleep in one large room, the women's hut. The men sleep and spend a great deal of time in a comparable room, the men's hut.

This unusual society exists by the largess of Dr. Ku, a Scottish anthropologist, who married into the tribe. She and her husband Paul, an artist and her former houseboy, are the most assimilated into the London world, but also strangely connected to tribal customs.

I enjoyed this novel. The characters from Dr. Ku to Robin, a second generation boy who straddles the two worlds, and Bob Caine, the next door neighbor who was selfishly responsible for the decimation of the tribe during WWII, are unusual and fascinating. The mystery keeps you guessing with clues suggesting that the murderer must be a Ku, but also pointing to an outsider.

I highly recommend this novel if you like a good mystery with unusual characters and imaginative background.

I reviewed this book for Net Galley.

A Master Impressionist Loses Himself

Giovanni has a talent for mimicking people that as a child often lands him in trouble. The only person who understands him is his smothering mother. She encourages the talent that  leads to his success and eventual downfall.

He is leading an ordinary life as a ticket agent when Max. a rather sleazy talent agent, spots him, puts him on the stage, and changes his life. From the stage he gets into movies and even a political run, but the threads of his life unravel and the ending is quite sad.

The blurb on this book calls it “A hilarious and dazzling debut novel.” Personally, I didn't find it either hilarious or dazzling. The first chapters were relatively interesting. Giovanni's childhood and later discovery by Max are a rather fascinating character sketch. However, as the novel progresses into his later success and eventual downfall, I thought the author was trying to build a short story into a novel.

This is an almost totally character driven story. The setting is sketchy. Giovanni moves from town to city, but we never have a clear picture of his surroundings. I enjoy novels that have attractive background. This book disappointed in that area.

I can't recommend this book unless you love long character studies. I found it hard to get into and the three divisions didn't help the flow of the narrative.

I reviewed this book for Net Galley.