Posts Tagged ‘Kind of Cruel’

wastedIn Sue Grafton’s latest entry in her alphabet series, W is for Wasted (Putnam, purchased e-book), California P.I. Kinsey Millhone is still happily ensconced in the ’80s with nary an iPhone or iPad in sight. Still the story feels up-to-date, involving homelessness, substance abuse and medical trials, as well as murder and money. Kinsey begins in her usual forthright fashion: “Two dead men changed the course of my life that fall. One of them I knew and the other I’d never laid eyes on until I saw him in the morgue.”

The unknown man was found on the beach with Kinsey’s business card in his pocket. First charged with tracking down his identity, Kinsey befriends three of his wary homeless companions, then has to find his estranged kids in nearby Bakersfield to explain the terms of his will — which surprisingly benefits Kinsey. And, oh yes, the kids are her kin, too, another surprise. Meanwhile,  a parallel plot focuses on the last days of fellow gumshoe Pete Wolinksky, whose ethics — or lack of them — see him sliding down the slippery slope. His last case, a matter of blackmail and murder, eventually intersects with Kinsey’s investigation.

Happily for readers, there are three more letters before Kinsey’s last case. Happily, too, Grafton’s still adding to the cast of irregulars. Welcome Ed the cat.

parisbonesHemingway and company may have spoken metaphorically of Paris’s Lost Generation, but a missing young woman propels the plot of Laurie R. King’s evocative The Bones of Paris ( Random House, digital galley). In the fall of 1929, Harris Stuyvesant, the American detective from King’s 2008 Touchstone, is prowling the alleys and cafes of Jazz Age Paris, hunting for pretty Phillipa Crosby, a young American who seems to have disappeared. Her roommate Nancy’s just returned from summer vacation and helps Harris look for Pip, who played at acting and modeling within the free-wheeling milieu of expat artistes and entourages.  Surrealist photographer Man Ray is on hand, as is Cole Porter, but the pied piper  of the new “death pornography” movement  is a powerful and aristocratic art collector, the Comte, also associated with the Theatre du Grand-Guignol and its macabre plays.

The convoluted plot has its own Grand-Guignol touches — an artist who works with human bones,  a terrifying journey through the underground caverns carved from cemeteries. Bennett Grey, the tortured human lie detector, makes a late entrance as Harris works with a Paris detective searching for a serial killer. Intrigue competes with atmosphere. Fans of historical fiction win.

bitterriverCounty prosecutor Bell Elkins and her West Virginia hometown of Acker’s Gap return in Bitter River (St. Martin’s Press, library hardcover), Julia Keller’s finely wrought follow-up to A Killing in the Hills. When the body of a pregnant high school student is discovered in the river, Bell and her friend, Sheriff Nick Foglesong, hope it’s an accidental death or even a suicide. But it’s not, and even as they look for a stranger, they fear the killer is one of their own. Not that the hardscrabble mountain town is immune from outside crime. Bell has been railing against the organized meth trade for some time, but terrorism is something new. A determined assassin is apparently aiming for Bell and those she loves.

As in her first book, Keller skillfully weaves Bell’s backstory of childhood abuse and failed marriage into the page-turning plot, expanding on her love-hate relationship with Acker’s Gap, the pull and push of family and friends.

kindcruelThe key to solving multiple murders in Kind of Cruel (Viking, digital galley), Sophie Hannah’s new psychological thriller/police procedural, apparently lies in the words Amber Hewerdine repeats under hypnosis: “kind, cruel, kind of cruel.”  Insomniac Amber doesn’t remember where she first heard the words, or what they mean, but for married police detectives Simon Waterhouse and Charlie Zailer, the phrase is their first break in the death of primary schoolteacher Katharine Allen. Amber goes from being questioned in the case to investigating the murder, prompted by curiosity and the recent death of her best friend Sharon. Amber and her husband are now caring for Sharon’s young daughters, who escaped the housefire that killed their mother.

If you think where there is fire, there must be smoke obscuring Amber’s connection to the first murder, you’d be right. A fog also hangs over a peculiar Christmas Day incident involving Amber’s extended family. Hang in there. Hannah eventually reveals all in her characteristically creepy fashion.

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