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Posts Tagged ‘Robert Galbraith’

At 656 pages, the hardcover version of Lethal White could well be a lethal weapon. Happily, I bought the e-book of the fourth Cormoran Strike tale by Robert Galbraith aka J.K. Rowling, so it only robbed me of a weekend’s worth of reading. And I found it time well spent, similar to binge-watching the Cinemax mini-series of the first three books. Strike is still large, grouchy and damaged, but he has rehired his assistant, Robin Ellacott, and elevated her to partner in the London detective agency. The two pursue a complicated case of blackmail, murder and past secrets involving the dysfunctional family of government minister Jasper Chiswell (pronounced “Chizzle”), the pervy husband of another minister, and socialist rabble-rouser Jimmy Knight and his mentally ill brother Billy. The cast is Dickensian, the plot smartly tangled and digressive, the writing detailed and atmospheric. Throughout, Robin contends with panic attacks left over from her serial killer encounter, as well as her selfish jerk of a husband. Meanwhile Strike deals with girlfriends past and present, all the while mulling over his attraction to Robin. Just when you think they’re about to get sorted, something or someone intervenes, and there goes another hundred pages. Still, I hope it’s not another three years before the next book. Cormoran Strike is as addictive as Harry Potter.

There’s good news and sad news about Wild Fire (St. Martin’s Press, digital galley), Ann Cleeves’ eighth entry in her stellar Shetland Island series. The sad news is that Cleeves says this is the last Shetland book, the good news being that police detective Jimmy Perez finishes strong. When the body of a nanny is found hanging in the Fleming family’s barn, suspicion falls on the Flemings, outsiders with an autistic son. But then designer Helena Fleming reveals that she has found disturbing sketches of a gallows, and the dead girl turns out to have a complicated past and local romantic entanglements. Speaking of which, Perez’s boss and occasional lover, Willow Reeves, arrives from Inverness to head the investigation. When another murder occurs, Cleeves crafts the village equivalent of an atmospheric locked-room mystery — the closed-community puzzle. The few suspects all have means and motives, and your guess is as good as mine. Oh, I’m going to miss Shetland.

 

A Forgotten Place (HarperCollins, digital galley) is a truly memorable installment of Charles Todd’s series about spirited British nursing sister Bess Crawford. World War I may be over, but many soldiers are still reliving the horrors of the trenches, including the Welsh vets Bess first meets at a hospital in France. Once hardworking miners, the amputees face such a bleak peacetime future that they prefer death. Hoping to help avert more suicides, Bess uses leave to check up on Capt. Hugh Williams, who is staying with his widowed sister-in-law in a back-of-beyond village in South Wales. She ends up stranded among hostile villagers when her driver takes off in his car in the middle of the night. The Gothic atmosphere is thick with suspicion and rumors, and Bess observes several mysterious events, including the secret burial of an unidentified body washed up on the beach. There’s a dark secret at the village’s heart, one that goes back decades, a secret some are willing to kill to keep.

 

Other recent crime novels worthy of recommendation vary widely in subject and style. In Karin Slaughter’s riveting stand-alone, Pieces of Her (HarperCollins, digital galley), Andrea Cooper discovers her mother Laura has been hiding her real identity for 30 years. Her desperate road trip to find the truth of her heritage alternates with flashbacks to Laura’s harrowing past that endangers them both. In Caz Frear’s assured first novel Sweet Little Lies (HarperCollins, digital galley), the spotlight’s on a father-daughter relationship. London DC Cat Kinsella is investigating the murder of a unidentified woman when DNA provides the link to the 1998 disappearance of an Irish teen. Cat has always known her charming, philandering father lied about his connection to the teen back then, but she now fears he may be lying about murder. She sifts through both family history and present-day evidence for the answers. Stephen Giles goes Gothic with his twisty psychological chiller The Boy at the Keyhole (Hanover Square Press, digital galley) set in 1961 Britain. In an old country house, 9-year-old Samuel worries that his widowed mother, who left on a business trip while he was asleep, has been gone too long and isn’t coming home. Despite assurances from housekeeper Ruth, imaginative Samuel begins to suspect that Ruth has murdered his mother and hidden her body. Creepy.  Agatha Christie fans should be pleased by Sophie Hannah’s third Hercule Poirot novel, The Mystery of Three Quarters (HarperCollins, digital galley). The clever puzzle begins with someone pretending to be Hercule Poirot sending letters to four people accusing them of murder. But elderly Barnabas Pandy accidentally drowned in his bathtub, didn’t he? Or was it murder? Poirot’s little gray cells get quite the workout, as does his appetite for cake. On the even lighter side, actor Charles Paris plays sleuth again in The Deadly Habit (Severn House, digital galley). Alcoholic and middle-aged, Paris is surprised to get a part in a new West End production starring Justin Grover, an actor with whom he worked long ago but who has since become rich and famous. Although he’s trying not to drink so as to get back with his estranged wife Frances, Charles falls off the wagon at an inopportune moment, stumbling over a dead body backstage, then making a quick exit. Now he’s got to find a murderer before he becomes prime suspect or the next corpse.

 

 

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biglittleYikes! I’ve been gone a month. Wish I could say I’d been to Fillory via Lev Grossman’s The Magician’s Land, but that enchanted journey still awaits. But, as in Fillory, time has passed differently for me ever since I had surgery four weeks ago. Either the anesthesia’s lingering effects have played havoc with my mind and/or it’s triggered lupus brain fog. I’m having trouble remembering both what I read before the surgery and the few books I’ve managed since then. Can’t seem to concentrate, or maybe I’ve just overdosed on middle-of-the-night reruns of Frasier.   “maybe I seem a bit confused . . . Tossed Salad and Scrambled Eggs!”

But it’s still summer, and the wave of books continues, more than enough to carry us into fall. Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies (Putnam, digital galley) is clever escapist entertainment, constructed like a good jigsaw puzzle. Readers know from the outset that Something Terrible happened at Piriwee elementary school’s annual fundraiser. But who fell off a balcony? And  is it an accident, suicide, murder?! Moriarty takes us back six months to detail the actions of several of the school’s mothers and their assorted partners and offspring. As secrets big and little come to light, they illuminate issues of bullying, domestic abuse, snobbery and violence. It’s all good dark fun.

silkworm“Fun” is not the word to describe J.K. Rowling’s The Silkworm (Little, Brown, purchased e-book), her second Comoran Strike detective novel under the Robert Galbraith pseudonym. I read and reviewed the first one, The Cuckoo’s Calling, without knowing it was Rowling’s work, and quite enjoyed it. This time, I recognized her fingerprints — the odd names, the many literary allusions, the grotesque touches to the crime scene.  Strike and his assistant Robin make for an appealing pair; he is large and grouchy and damaged, while she is pretty, eager and engaged to someone else. Investigating the murder of a pompous author trussed and gutted like a pig, they discover motives aplenty in the back-stabbing literary world. The plot is complicated enough that I’m happy I read it before my brain got so muddled. I might need to read it again as I didn’t see the killer coming. Then again, neither did Strike until almost too late.

latescholarHave you ever wished there were more books by your favorite dead author? Jill Paton Walsh has continued the investigative adventures of Dorothy L. Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane in a stylish, pitch-perfect series. The fourth entry, The Late Scholar (St. Martin’s Press, digital galley), finds Lord Peter, now the Duke of Denver, and his novelist wife returning to Oxford, which, in Sayers’ Gaudy Night, played such an important part in their lives.  So a certain nostalgia suffuses the leisurely tale as the couple meet up with old friends while trying to resolve the problem of the missing warden of St. Severin’s College, whose members are divided over the proposed sale of an ancient manuscript with ties to King Alfred. More than one visit to the Bodleian library and Blackwell’s bookstore are in order, as are apropos references to professors J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. I think Sayers would approve.

lucykyteI’m not so sure how the very private Josephine Tey would feel about Nicola Upson’s series in which Tey herself turns detective, but these traditional British mysteries offer complex plots and vivid 1930s period detail. The fifth, The Death of Lucy Kyte (HarperCollins, digital galley), is set in the Suffolk countryside, where Tey has inherited a rundown cottage from her actress godmother, Hester Larkspur. Red Barn Cottage comes complete with a  nearby notorious murder, a possible ghost and Hester’s papers, which may well reveal more secrets about the author’s life and mysterious death. Speaking of mysterious, who is Lucy Kyte, who is also named in Hester’s will, and where on earth is she?

 

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littlegreenIt’s good to see Easy Rawlins back in action in Walter Mosley’s Little Green (Knopf, digital galley via edelweiss), especially since most readers figured he was a goner, driving off a cliff at the end of 2007’s Blonde Faith. But it’s only been two months in Easy’s world of 1967 LA, and although considerably weakened, Easy’s soon on the trail of one Evander “Little Green” Noon at the behest of his best pal, the murderous Mouse.

Fortified by healer Mama Jo’s mysterious brew, “Gator’s Blood,” and helped by old friends and family members, Easy tracks the missing young man to the Sunset Strip and a house full of hippies. But laying hands on Little Green, still coming off an acid trip, is just the beginning of  convoluted connections leading to an insurance firm, an oil company and assorted bad guys not the least bit interested in a summer of love and peace.

cuckooAfter reading Robert Galbraith’s debut The Cuckoo’s Calling (Mulholland/Little, Brown, digital galley via NetGalley), I think Cormoran Strike may someday be as memorable a PI as Easy Rawlins. Strike, a former investigator with the Royal Military Police in Afghanistan (like his pseudonymous creator), looks like a cage fighter, has a prosthetic lower leg and is camped out in his shabby London office after being thrown over (again) by his gorgeous girlfriend. Temp secretary Robin Ellacott is dubious about a week’s employment, but both she and Strike are intrigued when attorney John Bristow offers double rate to prove that his adopted supermodel sister Lula Landry didn’t pitch herself off a balcony. The police have closed the media-circus case as a suicide, but Strike, with Robin’s assistance,  interviews a bevy of sharply etched characters, including Lula’s druggie rocker boyfriend, her favorite fashion designer and her film producer neighbor, in a series of atmospheric set pieces: 

 “Strike had  felt the living woman behind the words she had written to friends; he had heard her voice on a telephone held to his ear; but now, looking down on the last thing she had ever seen in her life, he felt strangely close to her. The truth was slowly coming into focus out of the mass of disconnected detail. What he lacked was proof.”

lastgirlDetective Constable Maeve Kerrigan is the likeable narrator of The Last Girl (St. Martin’s, digital galley), the third in an involving procedural series by Jane Casey. This time, Kerrigan and obnoxious DI Josh Derwent are investigating the grisly killings of famous criminal defense barrister Philip Kennford’s wife Vita and one of their teenage daughters, Laura. Kennford was knocked out in the attack; troubled 15-year-old Lydia, Laura’s twin, is traumatized by her discovery of the bodies. Neither the oddly composed Kennford nor hysterical Laura are good witnesses. 

The detectives sort through Kennford’s clients for a suspect, as well as family members and friends, before turning to Laura’s secret boyfriend. Meanwhile, Lydia finds refuge with her older half-sister, a famous supermodel estranged from their father, in a Sussex farmhouse. Kerrigan’s distracted by her boss’s interaction with drug lords and her live-in boyfriend’s possible infidelity. Then a stalker who terrorized her in the past reappears. But it’s easy to forgive so much melodrama when the pages practically turn themselves.

innocenceMichael Harvey’s Chicago PI Michael Kelly has a cameo in The Innocence Game (Knopf, digital galley via edelweiss), but the detectives are three Northwestern journalism students in a graduate seminar looking at cases of possible wrongful conviction.   New evidence suggests that James Harrison didn’t kill 10-year-old Skylar Wingate 14 years ago, although he went to prison for the crime and was murdered there. But  Ian, Sarah and Jake, following up on anonymous tip, come to believe the real killer is still alive, especially after they discover a missing boy’s body in the woods and the details of his death match Skylar’s.

The cops don’t welcome the students’ interference and appear determined to keep them off the case, which carries a whiff of Windy City corruption.  They also are challenged by their own suspicions of one another’s hidden agendas. Whose byline will go on the story? Or are they writing their own obituaries? The well-orchestrated finale is surprising and creepy.

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