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Posts Tagged ‘Mo Hayder’

rhapsodyBravo! Kate Racculia’s nifty novel Bellweather Rhapsody (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, digital galley) has been likened to Agatha Christie meets The Shining meets Glee. Add in Racculia’s declared devotion to the late great Ellen Raskin, author of Newbery Medal-winning The Westing Game, and I am so there. There, in this case is the once-grand, now-shabby Bellweather Hotel in the Catskills, famous for a 1982 murder-suicide in Room 712, witnessed by reluctant 10-year-old bridesmaid Minnie Graves. Fifteen years later, troubled Minnie decides to confront the past by returning to the Bellweather, which is hosting a statewide music festival for talented teens. On hand are twins Alice and Rabbit Hatmaker; she a drama-queen vocalist, he a shy bassoonist with a secret. They’re chaperoned by former piano prodigy Natalie Wilson, who right off runs into her old nemesis, Viola Fabian, the festival’s acting director. Viola — think Glenn Close as Cruella de Vil — terrorizes everyone, including aging concierge Harold Hastings, Scottish conductor and former lover Fisher Brodie, and especially her 14-year-old daughter, Jill, a musical prodigy who is rooming with Alice. In Room 712.

Having set the stage, Racculia then orchestrates this cast’s interactions with aplomb, leading up to Jill’s mysterious disappearance from her and Alice’s room, as well as a raging snowstorm that cuts off the Bellweather from the outside world. The cavernous hotel with its domed penthouse swimming pool is rife with rumor, alive with the sound of music and rowdy, randy teens.  Noting a full moon, Natalie wonders what will happen next. “The past was layered under the present like sheets of tissue paper, still visible if you focused your attention long enough to see below the surface.” Oh, my. Encore!

wolfMo Hayder’s seventh Jack Caffery tale Wolf (Grove Atlantic, digital gallery) is twisting and twisted, not for the faint of heart nor weak of stomach. Scientist Oliver Anchor-Ferrers is recovering from heart surgery at his Somerset country estate with his wife, grown daughter and their dog when they become hostages during a vicious home invasion. Meanwhile, Jack is taking a break from police work to further delve into the long-ago disappearance of his brother Ethan, believed to have been abducted by a pedophile ring. The enigmatic Walking Man, the drifter who has helped Jack previously, apparently has new information but first wants Jack to find the owners of a stray dog found with a “Help us” note tucked in its collar. Hayder builds suspense by cross-cutting the narratives and through the steady accretion of small details, some of which deal with a gruesome murder that rocked the wealthy Anchor-Ferrers years ago. Their present-day captors are all the more fear-inspiring because they are professional henchmen performing a job separate from their own ordinary lives.  Torture R Us.

midnightCharlaine Harris may have put Sookie Stackhouse and the Louisiana town of Bon Temps in her rearview mirror, but that doesn’t mean she’s left behind the paranormal. Midnight Crossroad (Penguin Berkley, purchased e-book) introduces us to the dusty, down-at-its-heels Texas hamlet of Midnight, where young online psychic Manfredo Bernardo (of the Harper Connelly series) sets up shop across the street from a large pawn shop. His new neighbors are an eclectic bunch, including an attractive witch and her watchful cat, a solitary reverend who tends over a little church and adjacent pet cemetery, the very pale downstairs tenant of the pawn shop, and a hard-working manager of the Gas ‘n’ Go and his teenage daughter and son.  Used to being an outsider, Manfredo finds himself surprisingly at home. When a missing woman with secret connections to a hate group is found dead, the community bands together against outside threats, each resident contributing his or her particular talents. As always, Harris is adept at depicting the cozy pleasures and perils of small-town life. First in a trilogy. I’ll be back.

revolutionIf you remember the ’60s, you know the era of peace, love and hard rock lasted well into the ’70s and that it often wasn’t peaceful. What I like best about Peter Robinson’s Children of the Revolution (Morrow, digital galley) is how well it evokes the youthful idealism and social unrest of that time when DCI Alan Banks investigates the death of a disgraced college lecturer. He discovers links to the victim’s college days 40 years ago and to Lady Veronica Chambers, former Marxist rebel turned popular romance novelist with political connections. Banks has his own memories and prejudices to deal with as he nudges toward retirement age. What I don’t like about the story is Banks romancing a woman younger than his children. Hard to believe and kinda creepy. Better the detective should follow George Clooney’s lead and find a more age-appropriate partner.

leonBooklovers will both delight and despair at Donna Leon’s new Guido Brunetti mystery By Its Cover (Grove Atlantic, digital galley), which spins on the defacing and theft of rare books.  The director of a Venice library calls on Brunetti when the losses are discovered after the disappearance of an American professor who was a regular patron. Surprisingly, neither the library’s longtime security guard nor another constant patron, a reader of church history, know anything about the situation. Or so they say. Then the professor’s credentials are found to be faked, and a murder ups the ante. As usual, the book is Venice-centric with many asides to the city’s charms, as well as its corruption, its crumbling culture and its invasion by cruise-ship tourists. An abrupt ending, however, may leave readers wondering if a few pages have gone missing?!

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poppetThis time last year Mo Hayder’s Gone picked up the Edgar award for best novel. Now comes the sixth in the Jack Caffery series, Poppet (Grove/Atlantic, digital galley), and it’s another winner — chilling, twisted, and oh-so-creepy. Caffery and the Bristol major crime unit are still searching for missing Misty Kitson when a series of patient suicides at the psychiatric hospital Beechwood arouses the suspicions of nurse supervisor AJ LeGrande. The deaths, several incidents of self-harming, and rumors of a terrifying apparition known as “the Maude” unsettle the staff and residents, and the hysteria extends to the community when a patient who killed his parents is mistakenly discharged. Hayder doesn’t spare graphic, gruesome details, but her demon-haunted characters, especially Caffery and diving expert Sgt. Flea Marley, drive the story.

toothCaffery’s turf isn’t far from the historic city of Bath, where Peter Lovesey’s astute, abrasive copper Peter Diamond gets a crash course in classical music in The Tooth Tattoo (Soho Press, digital galley). The body of a young Asian woman found in a Bath canal leads to a string quartet in residence. One of its former members mysteriously disappeared in Budapest four years ago, and the new violist is still adapting to his colleagues’ eccentricities when he is drawn into the police investigation of superfandom. Diamond may not know one note from another, but Lovesey obviously does, and the clever plot is enriched by the passions of its players.

perfectghostThe title of Linda Barnes’ adroit stand-alone The Perfect Ghost (St. Martin’s, digital galley) refers not to a supernatural phantom but to Em More, one-half of the successful ghost-writing team of T.E. Blakemore. When the other half, charismatic Teddy Blake, dies in a car wreck, timid-mouse Em fights her agarophobia to finish their current project, the “autobiography” of famous director Garrett Malcom. She braves Malcolm in his Cape Cod home where he is working on a new version of Hamlet, and soon falls for her charming subject even as she suspects he is harboring secrets. Replete with clever Shakespearean references, the narrative’s as tense as a tight-rope when Barnes gives it a sudden, head-spinning twist. Em’s a little bit Ophelia, a bit more Jane Eyre, and very much  herself.

fearFamous mystery writer Josephine Tey and famous movie director Alfred Hitchcock meet in Nicola Upson’s Fear in the Sunlight (HarperCollins, digital galley), the fourth in this excellent series featuring Tey as sleuth. In 1953, an American visitor’s surprise announcement forces former Chief Inspector detective Archie Penrose to recall the strange events of the summer of 1936 when Tey and her theatrical friends gathered at a resort in Wales to celebrate Tey’s 40th birthday. Hitchcock and his wife Alma arrange to meet Tey in hopes she’ll agree to a film of “A Shilling for Candles.” But Hitchcock, who delights in unsettling pranks, is upstaged by the real-life murder of a Hollywood actress in a nearby cemetery, and Penrose and Tey are left to sort out a bevy of suspects and motives. Upson neatly meshes fact and fiction, and her characterizations of Hitch and Alma appear delightfully spot-on. 

parrotsCrime briefs:  The animals, including a profane parrot, a talkative tabby and a rebellious raccoon, steal the show in Clea Simon’s entertaining new Pet Noir mystery, Parrots Prove Deadly (Poisoned Pen Press, ARC), as Pru Marlowe detects misdeeds involving a nursing home, a shady doctor and horrible heirs.

                             gordonston                                                                                                                                          I would have liked to see more of the pampered pets in Duncan Whitehead’s The Gordonston Ladies’ Dogwalking Club (Dog Ear Publishing, digital galley), in which Savannah neighbors meet for afternoon cocktails and gossip. When one of their own, Thelma Miller, dies (bless her heart), the friends hone in on the widower, and jealousies, secrets and lies lead to an unmarked grave and an overheated mystery.

TuesdaygoneNicci French follows up Blue Monday with the twisty Tuesday’s Gone (Pamela Dorman/Viking, digital galley), another tale with an off-putting beginning. But psychotherapist Frieda Klein only seems detached when she agrees to help the police investigate the case of a mentally ill woman living with an unidentified corpse. 

killowenThere are two bodies buried in the bog in Erin Hart’s layered The Book of Killowen (Scribner, digital galley). One is a well-preserved corpse from the ninth-century, the second that of a recently gone-missing TV personality with controversial views. Both present quite the puzzle for archaeologist Cormac Maguire and pathologist Nora Gavin, who are bunking at at nearby artists’ colony.

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