For the first half of Pretty Girls, Karin Slaughter teases us with details of the lives of sisters Claire and Lydia. Their family was torn apart twenty years ago when their sister vanished under mysterious circumstances from the University of Georgia and now a recent, similar girl’s disappearance unearths some old memories, feelings and resentments.
Both sisters hold pieces of the story — and it’s not until Claire’s husband is killed in a random act of robbery on an Atlanta alley that the two get back together and begin to see that things weren’t necessarily what they seem in their family, then or now.
It’s once we reach the the mid-point of the novel and the threads start unraveling that Slaughter’s Pretty Girls takes a big left turn and slowly begins to leave credibility in the rear view mirror. I found myself rolling my eyes on multiple occasions as Slaughter reveals the secrets held not only by Claire’s husband but by members of her own family in connection with the kidnappings. Instead of being shocking, these revelations made me think, “Oh really? You must be kidding” on multiple occasions.
With cover blurbs by some of the better suspense writers in the business today, I was expecting a lot more from Pretty Girls. And for the first half of the book, it delivers on the promise of those blurbs. It’s just the ending that left me feeling a bit let down by the entire experience. This was the first novel I’ve read from Slaughter in some time and while the first half had me eager to dive into her back catalog, the last half of the story made me a bit wary.
Murder was easy. The tricky part was getting away with it.
Doak Miller is a retired NYPD cop spending his golden years in sunny Florida. He keeps himself in the game a bit by occasionally doing favors for the local sheriff’s office.
His latest assignment is wearing a wire to incriminate a woman who wants to do away with her husband. But it just so happens that that woman in question is the girl of Doak’s dreams and not only does he help her to not incriminate herself, but he begins a relationship with her that leads to his working out just if and how the husband should be killed.
The latest entry in the Hard Case Crime series, Lawrence Block’s The Girl With the Deep Blue Eyes is everything that a reader has come to expect. A sexy cover, a hard-boiled protagonist and a fem fatale. The fact that Doak is carrying on affairs with not only the title character but two other women only helps to underscore his role as the noir lead.
Told in quick chapters, Girl is not for the faint of heart. This novel is an homage to pulp fiction at its best — lurid, quick to read and full of all kinds of graphic details that aren’t normally discussed in polite company. If you’re squeamish about adults acting like adults (for good and bad), then this book probably isn’t for you.
At multiple points in the story, Doak takes in a few classic noir films that have people trying to get away with murder and always getting caught. These sequences seem to be Block calling upon a shared vocabulary for this type of story and it helps us see how he’s trying to not only pay homage to it but give it a bit of a new twist in this story.
Not for the faint of heart, The Girl With the Deep Blue Eyes is gritty, raw and compelling.
I’ve not read a lot of Block’s previous works but after reading this one, I’m intrigued to look at his extensive back catalog and see what other gems are there.
In the day of social media, it’s hard to a book by one of my favorite authors to slip under my radar. So imagine my pleasant surprise when I wandered into my local library one day to find that not only had Laura Lippman published a new book but that it was reading and waiting for me on the new books shelf. And not only that but it was a chance to check in again with journalist turned private eye Tess Monaghan.
Years ago, Melisandre Harris Dawes left her daughter unattended in her car on a hot August afternoon. The child died but Melisandre was able to avoid jail time by pleading temporary insanity. After traveling the globe for years to get away from the stigma, Melisandre has returned home to Baltimore to tell her side of the story in a new, self-funded documentary. And she hopes to reconnect with the two daughters she left behind as part of the divorce agreement with her husband.
Tess’s uncle Tyner Grey has a past with Melisandre — they dated before he settled down with Tess’s Aunt Kitty. He’s also her lawyer and he brings Tess and her new partner in to provide security and investigative services for Melisandre. As Tess juggles her life as a p.i. with motherhood to her three-year-old daughter Carla Scout, the case quickly becomes more than just a nice paycheck for Tess. Melisandre is demanding, manipulative and difficult to work for and it appears she has a different agenda than just restoring her name to the Baltimore community and world. Continue reading
In general, I’ve found Holmes stories or novels not written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to be a bit of a mixed bag. I always look forward to enjoying one more adventure with one of my favorite literary characters, but I generally walk away feeling a tad bit disappointed or (most likely) feeling like I should just re-read the Holmes canon again.
Anthony Horowitz’s Moriarity has a twist that other non-Conan Doyle Holmes stories don’t — it’s focused on two minor characters from the Holmes canon instead of Holmes and Watson.
I’d hoped going into the novel this might give it a leg up. Unfortunately, it did not.
Set between “The Final Problem” and “The Empty House,” Moriarity teams up Inspector Athelney Jones (introduced in The Sign of Four and a New York Detective Frederick Chase, who is a member of the Pinkerton Agency. The two were working to prevent a meeting between Moriarity and the head of a London-based crime syndicate. But news of the Professor’s death has the two scrambling to try and bring the elusive head into the light of day so he can be arrested and brought to justice. The duo decide to impersonate Moriarity to keep their plan going forward.
It’s an interesting premise and for the first few pages, I found myself intrigued by it. But as with much of the Holmes canon, I find that less is more. About two-thirds of the way through, I felt that the story might have been better served as a short story.
Horowitz wins points for his extensive knowledge of the Holmes canon and his attention to detail. But that doesn’t quite make the story as interesting or as compelling as I’d hoped it might be.
Filed under mystery, review
Dana Cantrell suffers from bi-polar disorder and has been off her medication for a while. Despite the insistence by her husband, Dana hasn’t made an appointment to see her therapist to discuss her recent issues, black outs and possibly to get medication to help her manage the condition.
So when Dana’s neighbor is murdered and Dana was the last person to see her alive, questions arise as to if and how Dana might have played a role in the murder. Adding to the mystery is that Dana can vividly recall details of the afternoon she spent with her neighbor, including an incriminating cell phone picture, that aren’t substantiated by real world evidence.
Did Dana do it? Is she losing her grip on reality? And what is real and what is a flight of her imagination?
Susan Crawford’s The Pocket Wife invites you to try and figure out what’s real and what isn’t in Dana’s life and in the circumstances surrounding this murder. The story gives us insight into Dana’s thought-processes and actions, allowing us to understand where she believes she’s coming from and the circumstances that led to the murder of her best friend. It also gives us the perspective of the detectives looking into the murder, which at first I assumed was being done to lead us to Dana as the prime suspect and just how her perceptions didn’t match the reality of the situation.
Fortunately, the sections with the detective add up to a bit more (to say more would be to give away some things) and help elevate the novel above your standard murder mystery with a potentially unreliable narrator (or in this case, point of view). The Pocket Wife kept me guessing until the end and makes for a well earned final reveal. Again, to say more would be to give too much of this fun, fast-paced novel away.
In the interest of full disclosure, I received an ARC of this book from the Amazon Vine in exchange for an honest review.
Given a year membership to a popular singles dating site, New York detective Kat Donovan reluctantly logs-on, hoping to give her love life a jump start. What she finds instead is a profile from the man who broke off their engagement eighteen years before and has mysteriously disappeared (she’s drunk Googled him a couple of times and comes up short).
Kat reaches out to him, using the lyrics of one of their favorite songs to catch his attention. But when he abruptly shuts down their communication and warns her not to contact him or seek him out again, Kat’s suspicions are raised. Could the disappearance of this guy be somehow linked to the death of her father all those years ago and the man who is about to die in prison for confessing to her father’s murder (as well as several others)?
And is her former fiancee connected to a string of rich widows who are disappearing under mysterious circumstances?
Filed under mystery, review
After ten years in prison, former party girl Janie Jenkins has been released from prison on a technicality. But rather than use this opportunity to put her life back together, Janie has decided it’s time to uncover the truth of who really killed her mother (Janie was doing the time for the crime) and the motive for her mother’s killing.
Janie hasn’t been wasting any of her time in prison — she’s taken advantage of the prison library to study details on the small town her mother escaped as a young girl. Free again, Janie launches a plan to change her identity and head back to the small town — all while eluding various members of the media who want a photo of the former party girl turned convict and one particular blogger who has an ax to grind with Janie.
If you’re worried I’m giving away too much of Elizabeth Little’s engrossing mystery-thriller Dear Daughter, don’t be. All of what I’ve described above is laid out within the novel’s first fifty or so pages (or if you want to be even more nitpicky, on the cover blurb) and most of it’s set-up for what’s to come as Janie peels back the layers of her past to find out who her mother really was and who might have killed her.
Janie is completely unapologetic for her attitude and world-view, both of which are dour, pessimistic and sarcastic. Janie fills us in on details of her present and past on a need to know basis with hints coming first and then later filling in the necessary details. And while you may think you’ve guessed the ultimate ending to the novel by the mid-way point (as I did), Little is able to still pack in a few twists and pull the rug out from under you moments in the finale that are earned and appropriately foreshadowed.
It all adds up to one of the more impressive mystery debuts I’ve had the pleasure to read of late. It also puts Elizabeth Little firmly on my radar as someone to watch for future installments and see where she goes from here.
I was given a digital ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Filed under ARC, mystery, review