I’ve been reading a lot lately (I guess you’re going to say, “What else is new?) and want to share some mini book reviews/short takes with you.
Under the Harrow by Flynn Berry
Nora travels by train to visit her sister, but when she arrives, finds her sister’s body and the body of her dog. She can’t leave and becomes obsessed with finding the person who murdered her sister. Flynn writes well but this novel suffers from what I call the Gone Girl syndrome. And that’s not a compliment. Writing a plot with lots of twists and turns is all well and good – it is a mystery, after all. But what good is it if the protagonist is thoroughly unlikeable? That’s what happened with Gone Girl, it’s sort of what happened with Girl on a Train, and it’s happening again in this novel.
The blurb talks about the ‘fierce love between the two sisters’ and there is that. But that love is twisted and troubled, as are the characters. When I can’t identify with the characters, I detach. Surely an author of a mystery (or any novel) doesn’t want that?
Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter
This riveting mystery involves two sisters, Claire and Lydia. Their sister, Julia, vanished without a trace over twenty years ago. Claire and Lydia are estranged and when Claire’s husband is murdered and a local girl disappears, they are drawn together in search of the truth.
As with everything I have ever read by Karin Slaughter, this book is superbly written. The detail, the dense plot, the characters, the plot twists that just about knock your socks off – all of it is top drawer. She is simply one of the best writers out there. Slaughter’s books are usually part of a series, but she does write the occasional stand-alone thriller and this one is un-put-downable. It may not be for the faint of heart – the details can sometimes be gory – but none of it is superfluous. It’s all part of the deeply woven plot that will keep you reading into the wee hours.
Missing, Presumed by Susie Steiner
Susie Steiner is a British author and this book is a police procedural which involves the Cambridgeshire police force. The protagonist is Manon Bradshaw, a longtime member of that force. The plot involves the disappearance of Edith Hinds, a grad student at Cambridge and the daughter of a surgeon to the Royal Family.
The author writes about the doggedness of a police investigation and of the principle players in that investigation very well indeed. As well, she creates a cast of characters (including Edith’s family) who are written in great detail. It’s a solid police procedural and I’m hoping there are more books to come featuring Manon Bradshaw.
The Kept Woman by Karin Slaughter
This book has just been published – it’s the newest offering in the Will Trent series. Will, who works for the GBI (Georgia Bureau of Investigation) is called on to investigate the discovery of a body in a construction site. The body is that of an ex-cop. The investigation quickly adds another wrinkle: it may involve someone close to him. As the investigation gets more and more complicated, involving his partner, his boss, and his current love, Sara Linton (the medical examiner) the tension ramps up.
Slaughter, as I wrote earlier in this post, is a wonderful writer. I’ve read all of her books, including her first series involving Grant County, GA. I’ve had a bit of trouble liking Will Trent; I’m not sure why. But each time I read a new book in this series, I warm up to him a little more. It’s not that he’s unlikeable as in the Gone Girl Syndrome. No, he’s a good guy with a troubled past.
Maybe I’m so loyal to the Grant County series, which also involved Sara Linton, that I somewhat resented this new series. I don’t want to give away anything more than that. I’ll just say that the Grant County series ended with a shock that I’m still not over, all these years later. So the Will Trent series, though very good indeed, hasn’t won my heart yet,
But all that is extremely subjective. The book is riveting. It’s written by a master of plot and plot twists. I recommend it!
IQ by Joe Ide
Joe Ide is a new writer on the scene and this debut is simply fabulous. I was completely and utterly charmed by it. The book takes place in East Long Beach in California and centers on IQ, who is, in fact, Isaiah Quintabe, a bit of a loner, who helps those in need in his neighborhood. He’s a private investigator who asks only what his clients can afford. That means that he sometimes has to take on a client who can pay a lot of money; in this case, a rap artist whose life is in danger. Along with his sidekick, Dodson, he tries to find out who is trying to kill the rapper.
This modern day Sherlock and Watson are fascinating, funny, and touching, to boot. The dialogue is so well written that it rings completely true. (Boy, can this author can write dialogue!) Ide also tells IQ’s back story along the way, so that we know what has shaped present day IQ into the person he is. All this and a tightly woven plot that keeps us hooked and reading right up to the last page.
What a good writer Ide is! I cannot wait for more in this series, and there is going to be a series, thank goodness!
Hope you enjoy these reviews!