Wednesday, September 26, 2012

August Books

On a half-built, mostly-empty housing estate in Ireland, two children and their father are found dead. The mother, Jenny Spain, is critically injured and claims to remember nothing. The Murder Squad's top detective, Mick Kennedy, has the case, along with a new detective. Kennedy thinks it will be a simple solve, but there are too many oddities: holes in the home's interior walls, cameras pointed at the holes, Jenny's stories of an intruder in the house. Added to that are the personal memories of Broken Harbor that haunt Kennedy and his sister. Tana French is an outstanding writer; her ability to take a minor character from a previous novel and give him or her their own story and voice is unparalleled. Psychologically rich and twisted with plot, pick up anyone of her novels and be glad.

1222/Anne Holt/B
The title refers to meters above sea level--the level where a Norwegian train is derailed by a blizzard. The passengers take shelter in a hotel, including Hanne Wilhelmsen, a former police detective in a wheelchair since taking a bullet to the spine. Hanne just wants to sit in her corner and be left alone but when a passenger is murdered she can't escape responsibility so easily. An original take on the classic country house murder: an isolated setting, a limited number of suspects, and a detective who uses her brains rather than her brawn.

AS THE CROW FLIES/Craig Johnson/A-
Following on last year's outstanding HELL IS EMPTY, Sheriff Walt Longmire returns. This time he's caught up on a Reservation murder when he and his friend, Henry, witness a woman falling to her death from a cliff. Did she jump or was she pushed? Does Walt really want to help the new Reservation police chief, a touchy female returned army veteran? And how is he supposed to work all of this around the fact that his daughter is getting married in a week and he still hasn't found the right location? With the premiere this summer of the series LONGMIRE on A&E television, Craig Johnson is getting every good thing that a man as good as him deserves.

SISTER/Rosamund Lupton/B-
Bee has always been the protective older sister, so when she hears that Tess has disappeared in London, Bee's on the first flight home to track her down. But when Tess's body is discovered, an apparent suicide, Bee is determined to track down the truth. Tess had many secrets--could one of them have killed her? And if so, isn't Bee asking for trouble in tracing her sister's path? There was an interesting twist at the end, but overall this fell just a little short for me.

UNWANTED/Kristina Ohlsson/B-
Investigative analyst Frederika Bergman knows she isn't easy to work with, but doesn't know quite how to change that with her police colleagues. Then a young girl is abducted from a train in Stockholm and personal issues are replaced by a frantic search. When the child is found dead with the word 'unwanted' written on her forehead, Frederika and her colleagues have to unravel a killer's motive before another child dies. I keep trying Scandinavian authors and I keep thinking I just haven't quite found the right match for me.

BLOOD, BONES, AND BUTTER/Gabrielle Hamilton/B
The New York chef's memoir about her chaotic, generous family and her chaotic, difficult adolescence and twenties. Hamilton excels at conveying her passion for food and the emotional ties that go along with it, and also tells great stories about restaurants and cooking. I was a little less enamored of the time spent dwelling on her unusual marriage and their trips to Italy. Really, though, as someone who does not enjoy cooking, I wonder why I so enjoy reading memoirs about the subject?

To my mind, this story isn't as compelling as some of Bayard's others, notably A PALE BLUE EYE. In modern-day Washington D.C., disgraced scholar Henry Cavendish is hired by a collector to find a 400-year-old letter that was stolen by Cavendish's recently dead friend. When Cavendish joins forces with Clarissa Dale, a woman suffering visions of the past, he's drawn into the world of Elizabethan scholars who studied things forbidden by their society. The book moves back and forth in time, from Cavendish's increasingly perilous search to Thomas Harriot's dangerous research in the time of King James. Intriguing.

GONE/Mo Hayder/A-
Detective Jack Caffrey thinks his new case is simply a carjacking gone wrong--until he realizes that the target was not the car but the girl in the back seat. Police diver Flea Marley is hiding something in a local quarry, but her most dangerous find is what lies in a half-submerged tunnel. And there are leaks in the police case, leaks that are keeping the killer one step ahead of those trying to find him.  Excellent pacing and even better characterization, with two main characters I truly cared about.

The sequel to OLD MAN'S WAR, this book focuses on a unique new member of the Colonial Union's Special Forces. Dubbed the Ghost Brigades because of the unique circumstances of their birth/creation, Jared Dirac is the oddest one of all. He carries in him the brain patterns of a traitor, a human scientist named Charles Boutin who has fled to an enemy race in an unknown plan to destroy humanity. Only Jared has the answers--but they're locked tightly away. Once he begins to remember will he be a traitor, or will he be the person he has become through his own choices? An awesome look at identity and choice, wrapped in an intense story of battle and treason.

As children, the five of them were the best of friends. That ended after one dreadful stormy night in the woods behind their houses. Now in their forties, four of them begin to piece together just what went wrong after the youngest of their group dies in a car accident. More character study than mystery, it didn't work for me as well as some of Lippman's previous standalones.

In the wake of WWI, orphaned Sarah Piper lives a lonely existence in London moving from temp job to temp job. Then she's hired by Alistair Gellis, a rich soldier scarred by the war who's obsessed with ghosts. He hires Sarah to help him pin down Maddy Clare, the ghost of a young woman who hanged herself recently and whose vengeful spirit won't leave the area. Sarah is drawn to the story of Maddy, a girl who wouldn't talk when she was found as an adolescent, and even more drawn to Alistair's partners, Matthew Ryder. Maddy's ghost is out for revenge, and Sarah is out to lay her to rest before any more damage can be done. A decent ghost story with a great setting.

SPARK/Brigid Kemmerer/A-
Ah, the Merrick brothers :) In her ELEMENTAL series, Kemmerer explores four brothers who each control one natural element. In this book, it's Gabriel and fire. Gabriel is perhaps the angriest of the orphaned brothers and certainly the one most often in trouble. When his math teacher realizes he's been cheating to keep his grades up for athletic eligibility, Gabriel has only a couple weeks to learn what he's been ignoring. Enter Layne--two years younger and academically brighter. But Layne has her own secrets and she's not at all sure about the cocky Gabriel. When an arsonist sets to work on the town, Gabriel is drawn to the fires in order to rescue people. But others suspect him of being the firebug. Add in an Elemental council, of sorts, that wants the Merrick brothers eliminated and there's tension and to spare. Start with STORM and join in this great world.

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