Posts Tagged ‘police procedural’

I really should stop reading creepy crime novels at bedtime if I ever want to get some sleep. Consider police detective Casey Duncan at the beginning of Kelley Armstrong’s decidedly chilly A Darkness Absolute (St. Martin’s, digital galley). Chasing a fugitive from the off-the-grid community of Rockton in the Canadian wilderness, Casey and a deputy are stranded in a cave by a fierce blizzard. Strange noises lead them to a dark pit, where a missing Rockton woman has been held captive for more than a year.  Nicki can tell them little about the mystery man who kidnapped her, but there’s no doubt he’s still a threat when the bones of other missing women turn up deep in the cave system. Casey’s investigation with prickly sheriff Eric Dalton is hindered by the unusual nature of Rockton, a safe haven for people with secrets. Casey’s was revealed in Armstrong’s 2016 City of the Lost, so you might want to read it first to avoid spoilers. Besides, it’s another atmospheric page-turner.

So is Clare Mackintosh’s I See You (Berkley Penguin, digital galley), which will have you looking over your shoulder like London commuter Zoe Walker, who routinely takes the underground Tube to her real estate job. Then one day she spots a blurry photo of herself in a tabloid ad for what appears to be an internet dating site. What? How?  She discovers that the ad runs daily, each time with the photo of a different woman — and that these women are being stalked and assaulted.  One has been murdered. Zoe takes her worries to Transport police officer Kelly Swift, whose third-person perspective on events alternates with Zoe’s first-person narrative, upping the suspense. Mackintosh displayed her suspense writing chops with last year’s I Let You Go. This book’s another thrill ride if you’re willing to ignore some improbable plot points.

Speaking of which, I couldn’t help rolling my eyes at Behind Her Eyes (Flatiron Books, ARC), in which Sarah Pinborough also uses shifting perspectives to tie a love triangle in knots. Londoner Louise is surprised to learn her new boss David, a successful therapist, is the guy she made out with in a bar. Also, he’s married to beautiful Adele, who befriends Louise. Who is playing who? It’s a guessing game until the out-of-the-blue, over-the-top ending. You’ll also need to suspend disbelief with J.P. Delaney’s The Girl Before (Ballantine, digital galley), which is full of coincidences about the successive attractive tenants of a control-freak architect’s custom London mansion. Neither Emma nor Jane is willing to look the gift house in the mouth, even though the rental agreement has about 200 ridiculous rules — no books, no pictures on the wall, no rugs on the floor — and also poses intrusive ethical questions. Really?

After the show-off style of so many thrillers, it’s a relief to turn to a gripping procedural. Deborah Crombie’s Garden of Lamentations (Morrow, digital galley),the 17th in her series featuring married London. detectives Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James, is one of the best, building on 2014’s To Dwell in Darkness. (Yes, you’ll want to read it, too).  While Gemma investigates the murder of a pretty nanny in a Notting Hill garden, Duncan puzzles over his recent reassignment and the cryptic comments his former boss made before he was mugged and left comatose. Duncan has his suspicions about several seemingly unrelated cases involving members of the force, and the assault on the chief super makes him think a traitor may be at work.

Judith Flanders’ clever and entertaining third mystery starring London book editor Samantha Clair, A Cast of Vultures (St. Martin’s, digital galley), benefits from its heroine’s witty narration and an engaging supporting cast. Problems at the publishing house where Sam works are overshadowed by troubles in her neighborhood, where an arson case turns up squatters and a dead body. Of course, Sam’s going to get involved, as will her cop boyfriend, her attorney mom, her elderly but reclusive neighbor, and her spunky editorial assistant. But it’s Sam who’s up a tree — literally — at Kew Gardens and hanging on for dear life while a couple of thugs down below calmly discuss her murder.

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chung-CHUNG! We interrupt this books blog to pay tribute to the television show Law & Order, which ends its original 20-year-run tonight with an episode involving a troubled blogger. Yikes! “‘Ripped from the headlines,” no doubt.

Seriously, I am a serious L&O fan and I think I have seen every episode at least once, and many multiple times, considering its ominipresence on cable. I was up at 5 Saturday morning to walk the dog and flipped on the TV. chung-Chung! Det. Lennie Briscoe was at the scene of yet another murder in New York’s fictional 27th district. When my cousins and I were writing our first Caroline Cousins mystery 10 years ago, we referenced L&O reruns as a reason for cable TV. One of our amateur sleuths is so addicted to L&O that she occasionally lapses into the lingo: “Hey, I’m the vic here!”

The leads have come and gone (and in some cases moved over to other L&Os — Special Victims Unit, Criminal Intent and the short Trial by Jury.) But creator Dick Wolf has sustained the mothership show’s symmetry: first half hour, the cops try to solve the case, second half, prosecuting attorneys follow up. Although “ripped from the headlines”  is often used in promos, the writers usually pull off fictional twists better than most true crimes.

In an SVU episode last year with similarities to the Casey Anthony case, a grandmother ran into the police station declaring her grandchild was missing. But then it turned out the child died from measles, and the law went after a mother who didn’t believe in vaccinations.

L&O in all its many versions and episodes has long been my go-to show on lupus fog days. If I fall asleep in the middle of one case and wake up in the middle of another, no problem. I’ve seen them enough to know the endings. Truth outs, although justice is not always served. Remember Ellen Pompeo pre-Grey’s Anatomy in the “Fool for Love” episode in which she played a character inspired by serial killer partner Karla Homolka?

The popularity of L&O has a lot to do with the appeal of a good mystery novel, be it police procedural, legal drama or some combination thereof. Crime is confined to a certain number of minutes or pages. Clues are discovered and deciphered. Questions asked and answered. Law and order is restored to an increasingly complicated world. We feel safer.

I will miss the original L&O, especially Jack McCoy. Wolf has hinted that he might bring it back as a movie, or it could be revived on cable. Meanwhile, SVU and CI continue, and come next fall, it’s Law & Order: Los Angeles. California, here I come. chung-CHUNG!

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