Posts Tagged ‘Scotland Yard’

Martha Grimes’ clever Richard Jury novels take their titles from British pubs, and there have been some doozies over the years: I Am the Only Running Footman, Help the Poor Struggler, Five Bells and Bladebone. So the 24th in the series, The Knowledge (Grove Atlantic, digital galley) seems merely another curiosity. But don’t go looking for it in London. The Knowledge, which refers to the street maps that the drivers of London’s famous black cabs know by heart, is also the name of a hidden, cabbies-only pub so secret that even Scotland Yard can’t find it. The story of the pub is one of the whimsical digressions in the murder case Jury is investigating, the shooting deaths of an American astronomer and his wife on the steps of a private casino. The shooter escapes in a black cab, but the stalwart driver alerts his network and Patty Haigh, a sassy preteen Sherlock, manages to pick up his trail at Heathrow and wrangle a first-class ticket to Kenya. Jury will eventually dispatch his pal Melrose Plant on safari to find Patty, while placing antiques dealer Marshall Trueblood inside the casino to deal cards. The complicated plot involving drugs, stolen art and greedy villains, is almost an afterthought, but who cares when the gang’s all here, plus winsome newcomers. I was totally charmed. Like lovely Vivian, I can’t make up my mind between Jury and Plant, so I’ll take both, please.

The many charms of Venice are on full display in Donna Leon’s new Guido Brunetti novel, The Temptation of Forgiveness (Grove Atlantic, digital galley), which is as thoughtful as it is atmospheric. Brunetti moves adroitly from vicious office politics to happy family life to investigating the case of a comatose beating victim. Turns out he is the accountant husband of a teacher whom Brunetti’s wife knows and who recently approached Brunetti about the drug problem at her son’s private school. Is there a connection? Perhaps. Meanwhile, what of the man’s elderly aunt, a Miss Havisham-like figure in a Venice apartment? The leisurely plot hinges on government corruption to no one’s surprise, this being a city long familiar with frauds of all kinds. But there’s something particularly unjust about a system that takes advantage of its most vulnerable citizens. Here’s a vision of Venice that tourists don’t see, and it’s not pretty.

Scotland Yard’s Thomas Lynley and Barbara Havers return in Elizabeth George’s immersive doorstop The Punishment She Deserves (Penguin, purchased e-book), but so does their boss, Isabelle Ardery, who exists on vodka and breath mints. There’s no love lost between Lynley and Ardery, even though or because of a brief affair, but Ardery really has it in for Havers. So she takes the DS with her to Ludlow to investigate a possible case of police malfeasance, hoping Havers will go rogue and hang herself. Six weeks earlier, a church deacon suspected of pedophilia hung himself while in police custody, but the dead man’s influential parents insist he would never commit suicide. Ardery wants to make sure the original investigation was legit so as to avert any lawsuit, but Havers keeps picking at loose ends, of which there are many. Also multiple suspects, motives and red herrings. It will take Lynley’s late intervention to prove Havers right and get the case back on track but not before readers have met three college students rooming together in a rundown house, a community police officer with dyslexia, another police officer with family problems who likes to hang glide, a bar owner with an upstairs room to rent by the hour, a homeless man with a dog and claustrophobia, and Ardery’s ex, who is about to take their twin sons to live in New Zealand. There’s rather too much of Ardery and not enough Lynley to my liking, but Havers tap dances. Really.

YA crossover alert. Maureen Johnson launches an intriguing new series with Truly Devious (HarperCollins, purchased e-book), which is somewhat reminiscent of  her Shades of London series, with its boarding school setting and teenage protagonist. But Ellingham Academy was established by an eccentric tycoon in rural Vermont, and only accepts the best and the brightest, for whom tuition is free. Stevie Bell gets in because of her obsession with true crime and detecting skills, and she vows to solve an infamous cold case despite her panic attacks. Back in 1936, the founder’s wife and daughter were kidnapped and a student died. The only clue was a nasty rhyme signed “Truly Devious.” Just as Stevie is getting used to the weirdness that is Ellingham and her fellow students, Truly Devious appears to strike again and the book ends with a cliffhanger. Johnson increases the suspense of the Christie-like case by alternating narratives between present day and 1936. Waiting for the next installment is going to be difficult, but I’ve had experience with Brittany Cavallaro’s Charlotte Holmes  series, which continues with The Case for Jamie (HarperCollins, library hardcover). The first book, A Study in Charlotte, found Sherlock Holmes’ descendant Charlotte Holmes meeting up with Dr. Watson’s descendant Jamie Watson at an American boarding school, where they were targeted by members of the Moriarty crime family. Then events turned even darker in The Last of August, and as the third book begins, best friends Jamie and Charlotte haven’t spoken in a year. Jamie’s back at school for his senior year, with a nice girlfriend and no idea as to Charlotte’s whereabouts. He no longer trusts her after a shocking betrayal. But the Moriarty clan is apparently bent on ruining Jamie’s life so as to get to Charlotte, who is feeling guilty and driven as she tries to save him from afar. They alternate narrating chapters, often at cross-purposes until finally joining forces to defeat Lucien Moriarty or die trying, which is a real possibility. A happy ending? Not going to tell you.





Read Full Post »

darkcornersI tried to take my time with Ruth Rendell’s Dark Corners (Scribner, digital galley), knowing there aren’t going to be any more books from the prolific British crime writer. Rendell, who also wrote as Barbara Vine, died in May at age 85, and it’s fitting that this final novel of psychological suspense offers a trademark tricky plot. So much for savoring every sentence — I was too busy flipping pages as Carl Martin’s life spirals out of control.

Carl’s a writer in his early 20s who has inherited a big house in an up-and-coming London neighborhood. Somewhat lazy and a little greedy, he rents the upstairs to the very first applicant, Dermott McKinnon, who seems a nice-enough fellow. Carl not only neglects to throw out his late father’s homeopathic remedies, he also sells some of the pills to an actress friend, who is then found dead. Carl feels bad, but he feels a lot worse when Dermott starts blackmailing him by withholding his rent. Even as Dermott further insinuates himself into Carl’s life, a young woman named Lizzie is taking advantage of her actress pal’s death, moving into her flat and wearing her wardrobe. Tsk, tsk. There will be consequences.

Rendell, always more interested in why than who, expertly juggles  her parallel plots, upping the ante with a murder and a kidnapping. We know her guilty characters are going to collide around some dark corner, but which one? Creepy.

banquetElizabeth George’s new doorstop, A Banquet of Consequences (Viking Penguin, review copy) features one of those poisonous characters you love to hate. Caroline Goodacre is a middle-aged meddler, an overprotective mother, spiteful wife and hypocritical friend, always ready with the withering put-down in hopes of wrong-footing her perceived adversary. But did she poison her employer, a famous feminist author, or was the fatal dose meant for her?

That’s the puzzle facing aristocratic Inspector Thomas Lynley of Scotland Yard and his workaday sidekick Sgt. Barbara Havers, who is threatened with transfer after haring off to Italy in the last book. But a Havers on good behavior is a less-effective detective, as Lynley points out to his boss (and former lover). Still, it takes Havers a while to shake off the short leash, which allows George time to digress on a number of subjects, from dogs trained to treat anxiety to Havers’ deplorable taste in T-shirts. Also, depression, abuse and suicide. If you like your books leisured and detailed with many, many characters, A Banquet of Consequences proves richly satisfying.

prettygirlsBack in the summer, Karin Slaughter wrote a nifty novella — Blonde Hair, Blue Eyes (HarperCollins, digital galley) — about a pretty college newspaper reporter looking into the disappearances of pretty women near the University of Georgia campus in 1991. Turns out that was the prequel to her hard-hitting fall thriller Pretty Girls (HarperCollins, digital galley). The Carroll family has never gotten over the unsolved disappearance of eldest daughter Julia some 20 years while a UGA student. The elder Carrolls’ marriage dissolved, sister Lydia turned to drugs, estranging herself from her sister Claire, who made a safe marriage to steady Paul. But after Paul is killed by a mugger in an alley with Claire as witness, Claire discovers nasty computer files hinting at her husband’s hidden life. Paul’s business partner wants the flash drive, as does the FBI. Claire is forced to ask Lydia for help, and the two show considerable ingenuity and guts confronting an unexpected foe and revelations about Julia’s disappearance.

Pretty Girls is not for the faint of heart nor weak of stomach. It’s grisly and twisted, and it grips like a hand from the grave.

Read Full Post »

Reading Elmore Leonard’s new novel Raylan, I can no longer separate the title character from Timothy Olyphant, who plays Raylan Givens on  TV’s Justified on TV. Of course, the FX series is based on a couple of earlier Leonard tales about the laconic U.S. marshal, and lean, blue-jeaned Olyphant has made the part his own. Leonard must think so, too — that’s the TV Raylan on the cover.

Although the book shares some outrageous characters and twisted plot lines with the series, it’s not a duplicate. Rather, it’s a complement as Leonard surehandedly tracks Givens juggling three cases in Harlan County, Ky. — human organ trafficking, mining schemes,  gambling and bank robbery –and coming up against three formidable females: a transplant nurse, a coal-company exec, and a risk-taker of a college student.

Leonard is such a pro at this kind of down’n’dirty, droll storytelling, and Raylan such a cool guy. Can’t take my eyes off him, in print or on screen.

Every now and then in the early morning, I’ll see one of the local crew teams out on a nearby lake. They make rowing look so easy as they skim across the water, and I’m duly mesmerized. I had much the same feeling reading the first chapter of Deborah Crombie’s No Mark Upon Her, in which a Met detective with dreams of the Olympics takes her shell out in the Thames in the early dusk. “She was moving now, listening to the whoosh and thunk as the oars went in, followed by an instant of absolute silence as they came out of the water and the boat plunged forward like a living thing. It was perfect rhythm, this, it was music. The boat was singing, and she was a part of it, lifting from the water like a bird.”

The next day the cry goes up for a missing rower, and Scotland Yard’s Duncan Kincaid, returning from holiday, is rerouted to Henley to investigate. His wife, DI Gemma James, returns to London with their two sons and their foster daughter, Charlotte, but eventually she, too, will be involved in the case with its controversial ties to police politics and sexual abuse.

It’s a layered, complicated tale that also involves members of the prestigious Leander Club, an Iraq war veteran with post-traumatic stress, Duncan and Gemma’s balancing act of work and home, Charlotte’s 3rd birthday party themed to Alice in Wonderland, and two memorable search-and-rescue dogs. Yes, the kids and the dogs threaten to upstage proceedings, but Crombie steers all to a pulse-pounding ending.

Kids and dogs also figure in Sara Paretsky’s Breakdown, the 15th in the excellent V.I. Warshawski series. Vic finds trouble as she tries to keep a group of young teens out of trouble. The girls are paying homage to their favorite vampire stories in a Chicago cemetery when a man is staked in the heart nearby. Coincidence? Maybe not. One girl is the daughter of a Senate candidate, another the granddaughter of a Jewish immigrant philanthropist, and both families have drawn the vitriolic ire of right-wing newscaster Wade Lawlor. The dead man is a shady private detective who may have been working for Lawlor.

Trying to keep the girls out of the glaring media spotlight, Vic finds connections among the “vampire killing,” her wealthy best friend Ashden’s bipolar behavior, and a state mental hospital with a wing for the criminally insane. It’s a terrific book to read during an election year, touching on hot-button issues like immigration and negative campaigning.

I think those may be about the only two topics not included in Elizabeth George’s Believing the Lie, the newest outing for Scotland Yard’s aristocratic Thomas Lynley and his proletarian partner Barbara Havers. Tabloid journalism, drug addiction, gay marriage, infertilty, surrogacy, adoption, adultery, internet predators, pedophilia, alcoholism, dysfunctional families, buried secrets. George’s kitchen-sink-and-more plot is a tangled web, indeed.

As Lynley looks into an accidental drowning in the Lake District with the help of forensic scientist Simon St. James and his photographer wife Deborah, Havers mines the family history of the wealthy Faircloughs and gets her hair cut and colored. The latter digression will be appreciated by series’ fans up on the series characters’ personal lives. And it’s actually Deborah’s continuing quest to have a baby that dovetails with a major plot point concerning the beautiful wife of a Fairclough scion. Even though George delivers a boat-load of red herrings, shame on you if you can’t see where the story’s headed.

If you’re looking for a new series, I suggest The Anatomist’s Apprentice by Tessa Harris, which introduces Sir Thomas Silkstone, a young Philadelphia surgeon who comes to London in 1774 to learn more anatomy. He is asked by Lady Lydia Farrell to study the decomposing body of her brother, Sir Edward Crick, who died under mysterious circumstances, and so begins his career as a pioneering forensic detective.

If you’re not put off by the gooey and gory details of Kathy Reichs’ novels and the TV show Bones, and you’ve already gloried in Ariana Franklin’s historicals, you’ll be entertained by Silverstone’s sharp dissection of corpses and detection of clues.

Open Book: I read review copies of Elmore Leonard’s Raylan (Morrow) and Crombie’s No Mark Upon Her (Morrow), an advance reading copy of Harris’ The Anatomist’s Apprentice (Kensington), and borrowed copies of Paretsky’s Breakdown (Penguin Group) and George’s Believing the Lie (Penguin Group) from the wonderful Orange County Library.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: