Daughter of Baal by Gill McKnight

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Another one from The Law Game series, and another excellent one. If you’ve never heard of Gill McKnight (and why haven’t you?) I highly recommend her book The Tea Machine, because it may just be one of my favorites.

Daughter of Baal is another novella and it’s a good one. It’s set in the 1920s in England. The two protagonists are as different as they could be, but they agree that all the deaths at Clamp House must stop and the killer or killers be brought to justice. How the lady and her chauffeur will go about that, I will not tell.

What I will tell you is that the novella is beautifully written and the characters are charming. The case happens to be quite surprising, and that is an important part of a good mystery. You have it all here. As with Archer Securities, it’s only a little sad that it’s not longer.

If you like a short read, an entertaining read, something to pass the time pleasantly, this is for you. You might also wanna check out the other books in the series as they’ve all been written by very good writers. Now, go get and I’ll be here reading and telling you what to read next.

Archer Securities by Jove Belle

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As you can see, this is part of a series of books from Ylva Publishing called The Law Game. Crime books. I know what you’re thinking: but you’re always saying you don’t like crime books. Well, I don’t and yet I do. Just like with crime shows, some are too predictable. But there are also really good ones, brilliant even.  And some are not even that much of crime books, if all is said and done.

And maybe, I’d like to put Archer Securities into that latter category. After all, there is no murder to solve, no gory description of dismembered bodies, no psychological profiling of a psychopath. It’s about something else:

Laila Hollister is a private investigator whose uncle Samar has asked for her help. The books of his company, Archer Securities, show discrepancies and he wants her to find out who’s stealing from him. Easier said than done, as Laila finds out, because cyber-Robin Hood Trinity Washington re-distributes Archer’s resources so cleverly that she doesn’t leave a trail. And Laila isn’t quite sure who’s the cat and who’s the mouse in this investigation.

It’s a lovely novella. Jove Belle is slowly becoming a favorite for mine. She’s practically sucking you into her worlds, leaving you wanting more. Especially since this is a novella and you really want to read like a whole encyclopedia about Laila and Trinity. They’re wonderful characters, flawed, but so very good.

Belle understands the intricacies of family relations, her characters are never shallow, never one-dimensional. The story she tells is straight forward but never simple or boring. The characters and the plot will keep you chained to your ebook readers and kindles.

This is really a fantastic read and I think you should all go and get it. Only thinking of you here, because it’s really that good. You can thank me later.

The Kill Room by Jeffery Deaver

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I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: I’m no fan of crime books. But I’m also not a stickler when it comes to things I generally love, like books. So, yeah, there are crime books I read, and, hell yeah, Jeffery Deaver’s Lincoln Rhyme series is part of that exception. I may think of it as Sachs/Rhyme series, I may think of Rhyme and Sachs as the actors who played them in that one very memorable movie: The Bone Collector, and I enjoy the heck out of my own take on the story.

There are 12 books to date in the series with Rhyme and Sachs also appearing in XO from the Kathryn Dance series (which I also enjoy). The Kill Room is #10 and I’ve read each of the books before it, and the next in the series is already sitting in my book pile. I’m not searching feverishly when the next book of the series will be published, I actually stumbled across these two at the library, but I enjoy this crime series more than any other crime book I’ve read by any other author. Jeffery Deaver writes a compelling team of forensical analysts, two characters I simply love.

That said, here’s what happens in The Kill Room:

An anti-American activist is murdered in the Bahamas. As it turns out, he was on a goverment Special Task Order that has been leaked and prosecutor Nance Laurel wants the men responsible for the murder behind bars – one of them is NIOS director Shreve Metzger who may have tempered with the order to fit his own agenda.

Rhyme and Sachs are helping with the investigation, bringing Lincoln back out into the field and Amelia under the watchful eye of the killer, or one of the killers. Because there seem to be more than one cook in the kill room with a knife.

Since you already know that I like this series, you can guess that I liked this one as well. It’s true Jeffery Deaver, true Rhyme and Sachs. Their personal story intervenes with the investigation, plot twists are happening left and right to divert the reader from the true motive, or the true killer, or the one evidence that turns the investigation on its head. Because one thing a Deaver book never is: boring.

This is the series where you will never be able to follow all the clues. But that’s not the only thing that has me coming back. Amelia Sachs and Lincoln Rhyme, Thom and Sellitto, Pulaski and Cooper, they’ve all become part of a crime fighting family. And the reader, me, you, everybody, is part of that family, too. I often find myself breathlessly waiting for something to happen to any of them, because they’re often in danger, but often just too good at their job to get caught so easily off guard. I tend to mumble threats at anyone threatening Sachs, because she’s my main focus, my favorite character. I just love the series so much. Not in the way that I miss them and eagerly await a new book, but in a way that when, after years of absence, I discover the next in the series I don’t hesitate to buy. Deaver is a safe bet for a thrilling story, and Rhyme and Sachs are his most appealing characters – imho.

 

Blurred Lines by KD Williamson

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I’ve read so much in January and early February that I needed to slow down a little. Just ticking the ‘read’ box, makes me lose touch with the characters I’m reading about. And with this one, that would have been really bad, because its characters’ inner lives is what Blurred Lines deals with.

It was different in that way from what I had expected. Maybe I watched (and read) too much Rizzoli & Isles, but I thought this would be more of a procedural, a case where cop and doc work together to solve a crime. It was not. Here’s what it’s about:

Detective Kelli McCabe has been shot on the job. During her recovery at the hospital she meets surgeon Nora Whitmore, her partner’s attending physician. The two women connect in a strange but endearing way, challenging each other with each meeting. And suddenly meeting becomes as important as having their morning coffee.

While Kelli is working through recovery (her own and her partner’s), she also has some urgent family problems to solve. Nora, on the other hand, almost loses her job over a sexual harassment accusation. They become each other’s shoulders to lean on, but there is more than just being needed, there’s being wanted, there’s falling in love – and both of them might just run scared of that possibility.

Their journey toward each other and away from convictions of how life should be is at the forefront of this tale. Neither Nora or Kelli are well-equipped to dealing with deep emotions and they need time to figure themselves and each other out. But when they finally do, it’s beautiful and fulfilling.

Williams writes a compelling tale about characters that never feel like characters. They feel like the flawed people we ourselves are, like the people we’re dealing with every day. Relationships are not perfect, some people cover their own shortcomings with drama, things get ugly sometimes. But at other times, you find someone who understands what you’re dealing with, who listens and helps. And that’s where Kelli and Nora start out.

Yes, this novel was different than I expected, but that was actually a good thing. It was also a wonderful start into spring with a love story that doesn’t take itself for granted. And I’m looking forward to reading more about Whitmore & McCabe in the upcoming Crossing Lines.

 

The Old Deep and Dark by Ellen Hart

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This is the 22nd Jane Lawless Mystery. And it’s the first I’ve read. You might wonder why, and having read it, I wonder the very same thing: Why am I only discovering this series now? Whatever the reason, one thing is clear – The Old Deep and Dark won’t remain my only venture into this series.

Here’s what happens:

Jane’s friend Cordelia bought an old theater. Not only is the place historically relevant and haunted, Jane and Cordelia discover a body in the cellar, which once upon a time was a speakeasy. And that’s only the first body recovered, because country singer and friend to Cordelia Jordan Deere is found dead on a jogging path.

Investigating this murder with her father, lawyer Raymond Lawless, Jane discovers the truth of an old saying: Everybody lies. And the Deere family turns it into a kind of art and everyone becomes a possible suspect who may not only have murdered Jordan Deere, but also the bodies that keep piling up in Cordelia’s theater.

I’m not going to reveal the murderer, don’t worry. But I’m also not saying that they’re difficult to discover, though Hart sure keeps one guessing. That’s one of the appeals, of course, but it may not be the greatest, because Hart’s writing is wonderful, her characters delightful, and the hints toward solving the crime subtle.

Subtlety isn’t the characters’ best feature, though, and it’s probably luck that the real killer is finally revealed. While Jane is hard-working and committed enough, she’s also distracted by personal problems. Fortunately for her, she has able assistance in finding this serial killer.

Hart’s ensemble of characters is solid and one can read this book – and I would guess every book in this series – as a stand alone. But then, how can one not want to know their complete story? Hints are given throughout that it’s an exciting one and I, for one, won’t likely miss out on more of these entertaining volumes. I’m looking forward to discovering Jane Lawless and her friends, one book at a time.

A Spy in the House by Y.S. Lee

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Since I started reading Stephen King when I was only ten, I never really read young adult novels when I was a young adult. I’m pretty sure there weren’t as many around as there are now, I’m also doubtful that they were as good as some of them are today.

To these good ones belongs A Spy in the House, the first part of Lee’s The Agency series.

Mary Lang is kidnapped from her way to The Gallows, where London rids itself of its criminals by hanging. When she awakes, she finds herself in a school where she receives a formal education in the years to come. Same school is also a cover for The Agency, a covert operation helping the police and other interested parties to gain information. Like their students, all their agents are women.

Mary’s (now using the last name Quinn) first assignment for The Agency places her as a female companion in the house of the Thorolds. Mr. Thorold is suspicious in several crimes under the cover of his trading company. Mary tries to gather information, but gets involved in far more than just Thorold’s shady businesses.

If the summary sounds a little muddled, that’s my fault, because nothing in Lee’s novel is muddled. She did her research, she wrote an excellent, exciting tale. I couldn’t get away from this book, because I wanted to know what happened next, and next, and next.

Y.S. Lee spins an intriguing tale around her protagonist. Mary Quinn is a modern heroine trapped in times which treated women as anything but heroines. Victorian England is not for the faint at heart, and Mary surely isn’t. She has moments of doubt, moments of emotional turmoil, but she fights to be someone better than her lot in life has dealt her.

Mary’s story and the whodunit tale of the novel are woven into each other. We get to know Mary better as she unravels the mystery surrounding the Thorold family. And she finds herself a male adversary in James Easton. While their war of wits is charming and engaging, Easton is never put before Mary. She is the heroine, it is her story.

This is a book you will like, no matter if you’re 17, 37 or 67. While the main protagonists are in their late teens, they’re mature and interesting, the story is exciting and mysterious, the setting believably narrated. This is a truly wonderful tale. I bet you’ll like it too.

The Red Files by Lee Winter

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So, last Saturday over at Facebook (yes, Facebook – hate it or love it, most of us have an account), Ylva Publishing offered the opportunity to chat with three of their writers – Jae, Lee Winter, and Jove Belle (and as I hear, this is planned as a monthly event – not with the same authors, of course). Oh, the fun we had. And besides being able to ask these writers questions, there were also ebooks to win. And I won myself a copy of Lee Winter’s debut novel The Red Files.

I had actually ogled this one for awhile, but haven’t come around to it yet, so, this was a treat in itself – winning something. And then I started reading it and, let me tell you, I lost sleep over it. It was so good.

What is it about?

Lauren King is a young hopeful journalist, but her superiors don’t seem to think she can do anything but write about celebrity parties. It being L.A., one might think that Lauren would be excited about it, but she wants to be a political writer, not some celebrity stalker-type.

Catherine Ayers has been where Lauren wants so desperately to be. She was at the top, but fell deep when Washington decided she got a little too nosy for their tastes. Now she has a similar job to Lauren, with 15 years more experience.

These two have a war of wits going on whenever they meet. But when Lauren discovers some shady dealings at a business launch party, Ayers offers her experience and contacts to help Lauren uncover the story of a lifetime. And what a story it is! And what a chase it is! And what a killer body Catherine has! Oh wait, does that mean, these two women could actually find each other attractive?

Read the book and find out. You seriously won’t regret it. Winter writes a witty, suspenseful tale about two women who risk everything for a story. She might just have given us a modern His Girl Friday, and this comparison should tell you just how much I love this book.

Reading it, you will delve into a well-written, delightful, exciting story with two remarkable protagonists and great supporting characters. You’ll just love it, trust me.

Wild by Meghan O’Brien

wildThis year sees me doing strange things – readingwise. One is that I’m giving into a passion for the supernatural that I never before acknowledged I had. Shape-shifters, vampires and witches, oh my. Yes, it’s also research for my own future endeavor to write a supernatural story but it’s also natural inclination.

Of course, there’s always the romance to go with it and Meghan O’Brien’s Wild has plenty of that. Here’s what it’s about:

When pathologist Eve Thomas is attacked by a man in Golden Gate Park, a wolf comes to her rescue and runs the attacker off. But both the masked guy and the wolf are more than they seem on first sight. The man who attacked Eve is a serial killer in the making, obsessed with Eve who helped the police catch a serial killer before. The wolf is shape-shifter Selene Rhodes with whom Eve falls in love over the course of the novel.

Life and relationships get complicated when one has to hide a part of one’s person and while love hits both women fast and passionately, complete honesty is a hard concept to learn for gun shy Selene. And dealing with a psychopathic killer isn’t easy either.

O’Brien weaves an interesting story. She’s a good story teller, her style is easy and fluid. Eve and Selene are great characters with deep emotions and some insecurities. I also like the idea of the empathetic link between them. For all those reasons, Wild is a great read and I’m confident readers will also enjoy the steamy sex and there’s plenty of it.

At times I thought it was a little bit much but as it fits very well into the story about these two, well, creatures really it at least made sense.

Something I found more difficult to take are the moments of female domination, I want to call it. In a way, it makes sense, again. A shape-shifter is at least part animal and to feel terretorial and overprotective makes sense for Selene. But why Jac, Eve’s ex-girlfriend has to exhibit these traits even more aggressively to a point where she grabs and pulls and pushes Eve around, I just don’t get. And reading scenes like that are rather off-putting. Maybe I’m too sensitive but if a woman behaves that way toward me, I’m telling her off. The whole character of Jac felt too pushy somehow and I didn’t get why Eve would want to stay friends with her. I didn’t like Jac, at all, something I regret because female homicide cops are one of my favorite lesbian stereotypes.

And with stereotypes come clichés and I felt that O’Brien uses a lot of those. I cherish a good cliché, something to be showy about and also make a little fun of. The use of chlichés in Wild seemed overdone and not at all conscious but just in a way as if to say, this has to be so because it’s always been done this way. And using chlichés in that capacity is lame, because it’s exactly how they shouldn’t be used, why they have such a bad reputation, in fact. They make the plot predictable, the characterization suffers and they become annoying when overused.

I must say that it took me a good long while to read this. That was not due to the story but because I’m still not in my regular reading-mode. I’m incredibly slow these days, but it doesn’t reflect on the story. Wild is a good romance with believable thriller elements, and steamy, animalistic sex. O’Brien wrote a great story about a shape-shifter and her characters were well thought-through. I like it, but I don’t love it.

The Killing Room by Gerri Hill

thekillingroomWhile reading this novel, I did something I don’t usually do – I read reviews about it on Goodreads (you can find me under Cori Kane :)). However, it was still so early in the novel that I couldn’t agree with the negative ones and I guess, I still don’t. There were different things that bothered me from what bothered others, but let’s discuss that after I gave you a synopsis:

Jake McCoy is recuberating from a gun shot wound in her cabin in the mountains when she meets Nicole Westbrook who’s lost. The attraction is so sudden and so overwhelming that they spend a day and a night having fabulous sex in a tent. When they part the next morning, neither expects to see the other again, but when Jake gets back to active police duty her first case of murdered women throws her back in the way of psychologist Nicole. And their mutual attraction is not the only thing they will have to fight to survive.

It’s one of Hill’s thriller-meets-romance novels but it’s not one of her better. I think the beginning – while maybe a little too clichéd with all the fabulous sex they’re having – is very well written. I like how Hill buids the two paths that ultimately lead the two women to the same spot in the woods. Hill is able to build these scenes with a wink, saying: yeah, these two lesbians happen to be at the same spot at the same time, what a coincidence. And, of course, they’re having amazing sex with each other.

It isn’t really the story that has me discontent with this novel. Hill is able to build a conclusive narrative out of an unlikely premise. It was really more some details that put me off. Like the character of Jake McCoy, for example. I didn’t have a problem with the male name, I’ve given a character a male name myself once and was surprised why people had a problem with it. But the novel is in part about the sensitive topic of domestic abuse, mostly husbands/boyfriends beating and raping women, and to have a rather dominant female cop treating the proposed victim, Nicole, with sometimes careless force, sometimes condescending protectiveness – it didn’t sit well with me. I get that as a cop, Jake is competing in a testosterone-driven field but at times she comes over as a player, then a total macho, before Hill turns her back into a sensitive female cop who’s trying to protect the woman she is falling in love with. The characterization is sometimes a little wild. I also didn’t like the premise of these two almost comically attractive cops, like tv cops, who had little going for themselves apart from their looks. It was a little ridiculous at times.

In Nicole’s case, there was also some inconsistency in her character. While she was unhappy with her life and her circle of friends from the first she’s not able to break from it or them until the end of the novel. She just repeats that it’s ridiculous to be tied down in the closeted world of powerful lesbians but she doesn’t do anything to change it. She’s trapped in repetitive arguments either against the way she lives, or the woman she is falling in love with (because ‘she’s not her type’), and it gets boring. One might have expected for her as a psychologist to acknowledge the repetitiveness and break free from it but it doesn’t happen until Hill has set the stage for a defiant dramatic gesture that comes too late in the book.

‘Staging’ is actually a good key word when it comes to the novel, unfortunately it’s all done by Hill. She sets up spaces and conventions, like The Killing Room itself, but they fall flat within the narrative. I’m not sure what happened but it all felt very staged, plotted, unnaturally build, disjointed. If Hill weren’t such a sure-footed story-teller, this book would have been unreadable. But somehow she and the reader muddle through to a somewhat fascinating showdown – only to draw out the ending unnecessarily.

In the end, I felt like the novel was simply too long, that things could have been edited more, that some phrases have been repeated too often (anyone remember ‘we have shit on this case’? yeah). It’s not an abominable read, many have liked it on Goodreads and it actually won a GCLS award in 2007, but to me wasn’t an enjoyable read. Hill can do better than this.

Vanish by Tess Gerritsen

vanishI am back to reading and back to reading crime which maybe wasn’t a good idea. Especially considering how I had to work through Vanish. Here we have another predictably solved tale that could have been great but simply wasn’t. I have written about what I like and don’t like in Gerritsen’s writing and this fifth novel of the Rizzoli & Isles-series has too much of the dislikes and too little of the likes.

As always, the idea is a good one:

Russian girls are smuggled into the U.S. to become slaves to male desires – not an uncommon occurence and certainly a story worth telling. One of these women turns up supposedly dead in Maura’s morgue and the Medical Examiner finds herself in an frightening position of discovering that the woman is not dead. Jane finds out about how alive this woman really is when she is taken hostage by her while being in the throes of childbirth. But what drives the young woman to these desperate measures, what does she want? Her tale is revealed in narrative strings that lead to the one person with too much power and a secret he wants to keep.

Gerritsen knows how to pick exciting stories, her ideas are captivating. Unfortunately, the execution is often lacking. Or, at least, I find it so. And it is just possible that Gerritsen reaches into too many of my dislikes and that nobody else finds fault with how she strings a tale.

As I have already written, I found the solution predictable. That last plot twist that should have been surprising simply wasn’t, sad but not the most disappointing part of the novel. What irked me more, was Gerritsen’s un-focus on one protagonist. As part of the Rizzoli & Isles-series one might have assumed that it would be one or both of these characters (and maybe we shouldn’t just assume this since the book was published BEFORE Rizzoli & Isles became a brandname of a very popular tv show that focuses almost entirely on the protagonists’ chemistry). But Gerritsen pretty much abandons them – and their outstanding chemistry – throughout the tale to lay more focus on Jane’s husband, Gabriel Dean. With Jane in labor and Maura without corpses to work on, Dean takes the focal point – at least for part of the story. Other parts are told from the point of view of Mila, one of the Russian girls. Only at the end, Jane resumes her duties as crime-fighting detective – with a baby strapped to her hip.

I didn’t mind the idea of Jane being a parent as much as I minded the way Gerritsen described the inequality of motherhood vs. fatherhood. It is too much of an accepted convention that motherhood means ‘more’ in the great scheme of parenthood than what a father has to bring to the table. Dean may protect his family, but Jane has to be the one to (breast)feed, cuddle, and diaper-change the baby. And Dean is therefore allowed to criticize if Jane fails to do all these things. Again, Gerritsen loses herself in gender-roles that are very traditional and traditionally set without even realizing it.

And while Maura makes the discovery of a living corpse (which is eery and wonderfully told), she wilts to bystander during the course of the novel. She doesn’t even visit her best friend and her baby, she’s simply there to introduce new characters and direct our attention toward the blistering heat of Boston in summer.

Vanish is the result of taking Rizzoli & Isles out of Rizzoli & Isles. After the initial shocks of plot introduction, the novel loses itself in boring character shifting. There’s no interaction between the two friends. The whole novel seems wobbly and out of joint. At least that is the impression I’ve had. Yes, the story is interesting but it needs a lot of time to establish its force and by the time it does, too much of the plot has been revealed to really shock the audience out of its stupor. And this is sad since the idea is quite great – yet the execution…