Tag: mystery

April 27, 2017

Review | Broken Harbor by Tana French

Review | Broken Harbor by Tana FrenchBroken Harbor by Tana French
Series: Dublin Murder Squad, #4
Publisher: Viking, July 2012
Pages: 450
Format: Hardcover
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The mesmerizing fourth novel of the Dublin murder squad by New York Times bestselling author Tana French
Mick "Scorcher" Kennedy, the brash cop from Tana French’s bestselling Faithful Place, plays by the book and plays hard. That’s what’s made him the Murder squad’s top detective—and that’s what puts the biggest case of the year into his hands.

On one of the half-built, half-abandoned "luxury" developments that litter Ireland, Patrick Spain and his two young children are dead. His wife, Jenny, is in intensive care.

At first, Scorcher and his rookie partner, Richie, think it’s going to be an easy solve. But too many small things can’t be explained. The half dozen baby monitors, their cameras pointing at holes smashed in the Spains’ walls. The files erased from the Spains’ computer. The story Jenny told her sister about a shadowy intruder who was slipping past all the locks.

And Broken Harbor holds memories for Scorcher. Seeing the case on the news sends his sister Dina off the rails again, and she’s resurrecting something that Scorcher thought he had tightly under control: what happened to their family one summer at Broken Harbor, back when they were children.

With her signature blend of police procedural and psychological thriller, French’s new novel goes full throttle with a heinous crime, creating her most complicated detective character and her best book yet.

A home invasion in a small seaside town in Britain leaves a family destroyed. For any other murder detective, this case might be too much to handle, but for murder detective Mick “Scorcher” Kennedy, it’s his job. But when the case starts to bring back painful personal memories, Mick wonders if it’s time to throw in the towel…or work harder than ever to catch the killer.

Heading to the wanna-be luxury complex of Broken Harbor to investigate a brutal murder isn’t easy for any detective, but for Scorcher, it’s especially painful. That’s what makes him a winner in French’s fourth Dublin Murder Squad installment: he’s a naturally complex character. By-the-book on the job, caught in a family conflict, and unsure of where his life is headed next, Scorcher isn’t just any old cop. It’s this complex perspective that makes Broken Harbor so compelling to read.

I loved the interactions between Scorcher, his rookie partner, the ME, and the rest of the crew. Each has such memorable personalities that complement Mick and the plot itself perfectly. French weaves each character interaction, step and motivation so deliberately that you don’t realize the masterfulness of her work until the back cover closes.

To say Broken Harbor kept me on my toes is an understatement. There was never a dull moment from the first moment Scorcher and Richie step into the blood-splattered house to the final page. It was the constant conflicts that come with everyday life –  problems with coworkers, family fights, broken hearts – combined with the powerful of mystery of just who did it that brought this police procedural to life like few books I’ve read before.

For me, Broken Harbor is a definitely a winner, and one I can’t wait to read again. Have you read any of French’s Dublin Murder Squad? Which one should I read next?

4 Stars

Posted April 27, 2017 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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March 27, 2017

Review | Her Darkest Nightmare by Brenda Novak

Review | Her Darkest Nightmare by Brenda NovakHer Darkest Nightmare by Brenda Novak
Series: The Evelyn Talbot Chronicles, #1
Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks, August 2016
Pages: 407
Format: Paperback
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THE HUNT FOR A SERIAL KILLER
Evelyn Talbot knows that a psychopath can look perfectly normal. She was only sixteen when her own boyfriend Jasper imprisoned and tortured her—and left her for dead. Now an eminent psychiatrist who specializes in the criminal mind, Evelyn is the force behind Hanover House, a maximum-security facility located in a small Alaskan town. Her job puts her at odds with Sergeant Amarok, who is convinced that Hanover is a threat to his community…even as his attraction to beautiful Evelyn threatens to tear his world apart.

BEGINS WITH AN ESCAPE FROM HER PAST
Then, just as the bitter Alaskan winter cuts both town and prison off from the outside world, the mutilated body of a local woman turns up. For Amarok, this is the final proof he needs: Hanover has to go. Evelyn, though, has reason to fear that the crime is a personal message to her—the first sign that the killer who haunts her dreams has found her again. . .and that the life she has so carefully rebuilt will never be the same…

Despite her career working in the insane asylum, Evelyn Talbot thinks her darkest nightmare is behind her. She survived brutal torture and imprisonment at the hands of her high school boyfriend (after he killed her best friends in cold blood) and rebuilt her life to study those who can’t resist the call of the kill. But when asylum staff and townspeople from the small Alaskan town start to go missing, Evelyn fears the worst: her past is back to haunt her.

Here’s the thing about Her Darkest Nightmare: it has all the elements to be an insanely (no pun intended) creepy, heartstoppingly thrilling, breathtakingly romantic story. But it isn’t. Why? Evelyn.

Evelyn had so many issues. Granted, yes, she had a terrible event in her teenage years that would haunt anyone for the rest of their God-given days. Yes, she pulled herself together pretty well. But it’s the massive amounts of neurosis coupled with an unsympathetic, flat character that takes all the wind out of the story’s sails.

She can’t date Amarok, the cute Alaska State Trooper, because he’s younger than she is. I don’t know quite where that one came from – it’s never really explained except she’s afraid of being judged. She can’t be alone. Okay, this one makes sense, especially in the Alaskan wilderness. But then why on earth do you build a cottage on the edge of town with an unreliable snow car (a BMW, for heaven’s sake) and then whine when you can’t get home? She can’t connect well with others in the town/the asylum. Again, okay – she’s had some traumatic experiences. But she whimpers (there’s really no other word for it) whenever someone looks at her funny. When she does grow a backbone and stand up for herself, it’s so out of character that the whole story seemed off.

The reason the character development was so sorely lacking lay at the door of one key element: the dialogue. It was forced, awkward, and kept pulling me out of the story. I was keenly aware I was reading words on a page, not enveloped in a world of snow, sexy troopers, and murderous psychopaths.

Amaork had the most promise but he too suffered from Her Darkest Nightmare‘s stilted dialogue. I wanted MORE, more PASSION, more FIRE, more THRILL. And ended up turning this book back into the library early.

Novak’s latest just didn’t measure up for me. Maybe I’ll stick to her contemporary romances.

2 Stars

Posted March 27, 2017 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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November 7, 2016

Review | Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes by Denise Grover Swank

Review | Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes by Denise Grover SwankTwenty-Eight and a Half Wishes by Denise Grover Swank
Series: Rose Gardner Mystery #1
Publisher: Createspace, July 2011
Pages: 374
Format: Paperback
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For Rose Gardner, working at the DMV on a Friday afternoon is bad even before she sees a vision of herself dead. She's had plenty of visions, usually boring ones like someone's toilet's overflowed, but she's never seen one of herself before. When her overbearing momma winds up murdered on her sofa instead, two things are certain: There isn't enough hydrogen peroxide in the state of Arkansas to get that stain out, and Rose is the prime suspect.
Rose realizes she's wasted twenty-four years of living and makes a list on the back of a Wal-Mart receipt: twenty-eight things she wants to accomplish before her vision comes true. She's well on her way with the help of her next door neighbor Joe, who has no trouble teaching Rose the rules of drinking, but won't help with number fifteen-- do more with a man. Joe's new to town, but it doesn't take a vision for Rose to realize he's got plenty secrets of his own.
Somebody thinks Rose has something they want and they'll do anything to get it. Her house is broken into, someone else she knows is murdered, and suddenly, dying a virgin in the Fenton County jail isn't her biggest worry after all.
Winner of The Beacon 2010 Unpublished Division, Mainstream Category

Rose Gardner doesn’t want to make a fuss. She would rather go completely unnoticed, thank you very much. After living her twenty-four years with her overbearing, bossy mother, Rose finally loses her patience. Storming out of the house, Rose makes a list of 28 wishes, 28 things she wants to do before she dies. And since she just had a vision of her death, it’s time for Rose to strike out on her own. Unfortunately, the very day Rose declares her independence, her controlling mother is found dead…and all fingers are pointing at Rose.

Rose is, without a doubt, one of the most naive characters I’ve come across, but it worked for her. She’s sweet, innocent, and the highlight of Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes. Her character journey, from a young, innocent 24-year-old girl to a slightly-less-innocent but more independent woman is the star of the story. I loved her. Her gentleness and sweet nature creates her problems, but also gives her allies. It was a perfect balance, only going into overly sweet every once in a while.

I accidentally picked up Thirty-Five and a Half Conspiracies from the library a few weeks ago, not knowing it was part of a series, so I had a clue that the hunky next-door neighbor Joe McAllister wasn’t what he seemed. But, oh, I loved every damn scene that he was in. There was something so obviously off about him (his secrecy, his intimate knowledge of Rose’s murder case, and his middle-of-the-night activities) but his sweetness and obvious attraction to Rose made me rush to the end to make sure they had a happily-ever-after.

The romance of Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes is a winner in my book. Soft and sweet, but tense and hot, it quickly won me over, despite Joe’s secrecy. It brought me into Rose’s world, and I can’t wait to return in Twenty-Nine and a Half Reasons.

4 Stars

Posted November 7, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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October 20, 2016

Review | O is for Outlaw by Sue Grafton

Review | O is for Outlaw by Sue GraftonO is for Outlaw by Sue Grafton
Series: Kinsey Millhone, #15
Publisher: Ballantine Books, January 2001
Pages: 354
Format: Hardcover
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Through fourteen books, fans have been fed short rations when it comes to Kinsey Millhone's past: a morsel here, a dollop there. We know of the aunt who raised her, the second husband who left her, the long-lost family up the California coast. But husband number one remained a blip on the screen until now.
The call comes on a Monday morning from a guy who scavenges defaulted storage units at auction. Last week he bought a stack. They had stuff in them—Kinsey stuff. For thirty bucks, he'll sell her the lot. Kinsey's never been one for personal possessions, but curiosity wins out and she hands over a twenty (she may be curious but she loves a bargain). What she finds amid childhood memorabilia is an old undelivered letter.
It will force her to reexamine her beliefs about the breakup of that first marriage, about the honor of that first husband, about an old unsolved murder. It will put her life in the gravest peril."O" Is for Outlaw: Kinsey's fifteenth adventure into the dark side of human nature.

Oh, Kinsey.

O is for Outlaw might have broken her heart. And mine.

As I put this book down, I remembered writing how I wished Kinsey showed more of herself in the novels, letting us as readers get to know her better. I got my wish.

Kinsey Millhone was married twice (and prefers to be single, thank you very much). We met her second husband in E is for Evidence, but her first is rarely mentioned…until we get to O. In Outlaw, Kinsey finally reveals their relationship when news arrives that Mickey Magruder, the pointedly-ignored first husband, has been shot and is in a coma in Los Angeles.

I’ve always wondered at Kinsey’s determined lack of information about her relationship with Mickey and her reaction to his condition solidified my theory: he was her first love. You know, that one we’re always slightly irrational about, even years later? Mickey Magruder, a paranoid vice cop a decade her senior, was the guy who broke Kinsey Millhone’s heart.

Being Kinsey, she can’t help but start investigating, despite the investigating cops’ warnings. She unravels the life of a serial playboy, a man destroyed, and an addict in recovery. In discovering so much about Mickey’s current life, she understands his past a little better and finally comes to terms with their relationship. But it’s the last scene that had me sniffling back tears.

The mystery in O for Outlaw was up to par, and Kinsey’s snooping nature brought light into an otherwise emotionally heavy story. The difference? Mickey’s shooting rocked her to her core, so her typical unbiased perspective was deeply slanted.

I wanted to know more about the characters, their situations, and their relationship to her, but there was only so much room in the book. Still, O is for Outlaw was a surprisingly intense story, one that I’m thrilled finally was told.

4 Stars

Posted October 20, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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October 10, 2016

Review | Armageddeon Rules by J.C. Nelson

Review | Armageddeon Rules by J.C. NelsonArmageddon Rules by J.C. Nelson
Series: Grimm Agency, #2
Publisher: Ace, February 2015
Pages: 336
Format: Paperback
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Marissa Locks, newly appointed partner of the Grimm Agency, has a reputation for making a mess of magical matters—although causing Armageddon is a new low, even for her…
Marissa is due for a little happily ever after. After all, she did kill the evil Fairy Godmother, end a war, and snag a sweet promotion within the Fairy Godfather's magical-problem-solving Agency. But between maintaining a relationship with someone whose amorous advances can cause third-degree burns, dealing with a killer-poodle infestation, and helping her best friend, Princess Ari, learn to wield spells more powerful than curing a hangover, she’s not getting as much peace and quiet as she hoped.
When an enemy from her past appears to exact a terrible revenge, Marissa’s life goes from hectic to hell on earth. With Grimm inexplicably gone and Ari trapped by a sleeping spell, Marissa decides to fight fire with hellfire—and accidentally begins a countdown to the apocalypse.
With the end of days extremely nigh, Marissa will have to master royal politics, demonic law, and biblical plagues in a hurry—because even the end of the world can’t keep the Agency from opening for business…

I was stunned to discover a light-hearted book about Armageddon, yet Nelson’s Armageddon Rules is exactly that. It’s light, silly, a little fluffy, and just fun.

In her mind, Marissa Locks has paid her due. She saved the day in Free Agent and is looking forward to a little relaxation – well, as much relaxation as a partner in Grimm’s agency can get. Loaded down with evil poodles, lost princesses, and lusty princes, Marissa has her hands full. Then the world erupts in chaos.

Grimm is unreachable, and soon, Marissa finds herself trapped into organizing the beginning of Armageddon.

Normally, I wouldn’t find Armageddon funny, but I loved the hilarity that Nelson brought to it. Everything, from the demons orchestrating it to Marissa’s take on the dreaded plagues, was just funny. It also brought out a deeper side of not only Marissa but Grimm, the all-knowing fairy godfather. I loved the depth that the lighthearted nature of the book brought to their relationship and how it intensified the characterizations. Instead of simply being the man in the mirror (hah), Grimm became a person of emotions and history.

I didn’t like how quickly Marissa’s relationship had progressed with Liam, her cursed boyfriend (no, the girl does nothing halfway). When we left them at the end of Free Agent, they were just starting a relationship. In Armageddeon Rules, their relationship has moved up multiple levels, leaving me feeling like I had to rush to catch up. I felt like I had missed out on crucial parts of their relationship, parts that I would have loved to read.

Armageddeon Rules is first and foremost a humorous urban fantasy. I love the world that Nelson has created: the magic hiding in plain sight only empowers the storyline. There’s one final book in the Grimm series, and I can’t wait to get my hands on it.

4 Stars

Posted October 10, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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September 29, 2016

Review | Apprentice in Death by J.D. Robb

Review | Apprentice in Death by J.D. RobbApprentice in Death by J.D. Robb
Series: In Death, #43
Publisher: Berkley, September 2016
Pages: 375
Format: Hardcover
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The shots came quickly, silently, and with deadly accuracy. Within seconds, three people were dead at Central Park’s ice skating rink. The victims: a talented young skater, a doctor, and a teacher. As random as random can be.
Eve Dallas has seen a lot of killers during her time with the NYPSD, but never one like this. After reviewing security videos, it becomes clear that the victims were killed by a sniper firing a tactical laser rifle, who could have been miles away when the trigger was pulled. And though the locations where the shooter could have set up seem endless, the list of people with that particular skill set is finite: police, military, professional killer.
Eve’s husband, Roarke, has unlimited resources—and genius—at his disposal. And when his computer program leads Eve to the location of the sniper, she learns a shocking fact: There were two—one older, one younger. Someone is being trained by an expert in the science of killing, and they have an agenda. Central Park was just a warm-up. And as another sniper attack shakes the city to its core, Eve realizes that though we’re all shaped by the people around us, there are those who are just born evil...

Master and apprentice in death. It’s a new take for Lieutenant Eve Dallas, Homicide. She faced down lovers, loners, psychopaths and worse. But when a long distance serial killer (think sniper) starts killing in New York City, Eve has a feeling she may be out of her depth.

I couldn’t get into this book at first. After waiting (im)patiently for the latest book in the In Death series, I expected a grand opening scene. The initial murder scene at the ice skating rink didn’t catch me at first. The connection, the viciousness that I’d come to expect from Robb’s villains didn’t stand out. Instead, it was cold, impersonal, and almost clinical.

As Apprentice in Death began to play out, the implications began to sink in. I realized that these villains, the master and apprentice, were unlike anything Eve has faced before. I was hooked into the massive manhunt for the serial killers for one reason: the psychological profiles.

The depth and variation in both the master and apprentice’s mindsets, motives, and rationale were intense, emotional, and entirely engaging. In other words, I loved it. The dueling narration of Eve’s hunt and the snipers’ thought processes fascinated me, pulling me deeper into the story than I ever imagined.

Most of Robb’s installments are what I would consider thrilling, but the gritty nature of this manhunt made it downright heart-stopping. Although it took a while for it to get started, Apprentice in Death lives up to Robb’s standards.

As thrilling as the new characters were, it was the returning cast that made me fall in love with this book. The dynamics between Peabody and Eve in Interview always add a thrill, and Roarke…well, Roarke is an entity unto himself. Their perfectly imperfect marriage is one of my favorite relationships in literature today.

I don’t know why I doubt it; Robb’s In Death series has won me over time and time again. Apprentice in Death was no different.

4 Stars

Posted September 29, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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September 28, 2016

Review | N is for Noose by Sue Grafton

Review | N is for Noose by Sue GraftonN Is For Noose by Sue Grafton
Series: Kinsey Millhone, #14
Publisher: Fawcett, January 1970
Pages: 322
Format: Paperback
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Tom Newquist had been a detective in the Nota Lake sheriffs office --- a tough, honest cop respected by everyone. When he died suddenly, the town folk were sad but not surprised. Just shy of sixty-five. Newquist worked too hard, drank too much, and exercised too little.
Newquist's widow, Selma, didn't doubt the coroner's report. But still, she couldn't help wondering what had so bothered Tom in the last six weeks of his life. What was it that had made him prowl restlessly at night and brood constantly? Determined to help Selma find the answer, Kinsey Millhone sets up shop in Nota Lake, where she finds that looking for a needle in a haystack can draw blood --- very likely, her own ...

Slipping back into Kinsey’s world is like returning home. It’s comforting, despite the murders and violence that undoubtedly appear in each installment, and familiar. When she undertakes a case on the road as a favor for her friend (is he her friend? Not sure) Robert Dietz, Kinsey finds herself in arguably the biggest mess she’s dealt with.

Tom Newquist was an all-around popular guy in Nota Lake, so when he’s found dead in his truck on the side of the road, the town reels. Even though he was one of two police investigators in the area, no one seems to hold a grudge against him, yet Selma, Newquist’s bizarre widow, can’t shake the feeling that there’s more to the story. Enter Kinsey.

N is for Noose isn’t a cut-and-dried murder mystery, at least, not in the beginning. Instead, Kinsey faces the wild dynamics of a small, tight-knit town, an employer whom she’s pretty sure doesn’t tell the whole truth (only when it suits her), and a nagging feeling in her stomach that just won’t go away. There’s something definitely wrong in Nota Lake…but what it is?

While Tom’s murder was the initial hook for the mystery, I was drawn into the town vs. Kinsey dynamic that permeated the pages. Kinsey was an outsider, asking questions that wasn’t any her never mind. Small towns generally don’t take too kindly to that. The friction and tension in the atmosphere created this draw, this intense need to read the next page, to know what happened.

N is for Noose had even more surprises lying in wait. After reading 13 of Grafton’s other books, I thought I had her pattern down pretty well. I even thought I knew who the killer was and why.

Image result for shakes head smiles gif

Won’t make that mistake twice. She blew me away. The killer, the motive, the method…that final scene was just simply amazing.

4 Stars

Posted September 28, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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August 25, 2016

Review | M is for Malice by Sue Grafton

Review | M is for Malice by Sue GraftonM Is For Malice by Sue Grafton
Series: Kinsey Millhone, #13
Publisher: Fawcett, January 1970
Format: Hardcover
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Approaching middle age warily, PI Kinsey Millhone of the Southern California coast is mildly depressed, romantically vulnerable and in the process of reassessing her family ties. Yet, when it comes to her professional abilities, she's at the top of her form, as this deftly plotted and absorbing novel proves. Bader Malek, a local industrial tycoon, has died, and his four sons now stand to inherit a substantial fortune. But one of them, Guy, has been missing since 1968. A drug addict, ne'er-do-well and all-around miscreant, Guy had been disinherited by his exasperated father shortly before he vanished. But that particular will has disappeared, and Kinsey has been hired by the family to find out if Guy is still alive and thus in line to collect his original portion of the estate.

When Kinsey Millhone thinks of the letter “M,” the first thing that comes to mind is murder. Yet when her long-lost cousin, the probate lawyer, asks her to lend a hand to close a missing person’s case, Kinsey finds herself embroiled in a family fueled by murder and malice.

Although M is for Malice isn’t an unusual set-up for one of Kinsey’s case, I was drawn into the story. There was one outstanding difference between this thirteenth book and her other twelve: the victim.

When rebel-without-a-cause Guy Malek left the family home, he didn’t expect to return to it a changed man. Yet, when Kinsey knocks on the door of the reformed bad boy, born again Christian, Malek enters the story with an unexpected touch of innocence. It’s like he grew younger – instead of older and wiser, he became slightly more naive and searched constantly for the good in other people. It created a protective need in both Kinsey and I.

His family, in turn, may win the award for the biggest bunch of arrogant misfits yet. An older brother with a desperate need to control everything, his borderline alcoholic wife, and two younger brothers who have no idea who they truly are and no real desire to figure it out. Leaving Guy Malek with them was something like a sheep among wolves.

The innocence of Guy and the madness of his family created a fantastic story, one that Kinsey narrated, for the most part. She stayed in the background, watching this family drama play out. Normally, the decision to stick her to the sidelines would bother me, but with all the drama going on, it was the perfect choice.

I liked that Grafton pushed Kinsey a little personally. Bringing back Robert Dietz, her old flame, to act as a partner in M is for Malice forced Kinsey to confront some demons she didn’t know she was carrying.

All in all, I loved it. M is for Malice had a great hook – the impressionable, irresistable Guy Malek.

4 Stars

Posted August 25, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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August 4, 2016

Review | L is for Lawless by Sue Grafton

Review | L is for Lawless by Sue Grafton"L" is for Lawless by Sue Grafton
Series: Kinsey Millhone, #12
Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks, November 2009
Pages: 352
Format: Paperback
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When Kinsey Millhone's landlord asks her to help deceased World War II vet Johnnie Lee's family find out why the military has no record of his service, she thinks it'll be a cinch. But she is about to meet her match in world-class prevaricators who take her for the ride of her life.
When Lee's apartment in burgled and a man named Ray Rawson, who claims to be an old friend of Lee's, is beaten up, Kinsey soon finds herself on the trail of a pregnant woman with a duffel bag. Soon the intrepid P.I. is following leads halfway across the country and encountering another man from Lee's past—a vengeful psychopath.
Stalked by a new enemy and increasingly suspicious of Rawson—not to mention running out of time and money—now Kinsey must steer a collision course to solve a decades-old mystery that some would like better left unsolved.…

When Kinsey agrees to do a small favor for her landlord, Henry, she thinks it’ll be a small investigation. Well, not even an investigation – more of a research project. When a simple search for a deceased’s military ID turns into a story of cops and robbers, a missing stash of cash and jewels, and a lawless man’s hidden history, Kinsey may finally be in over her head.

Logically, I didn’t expect all of the Kinsey Millhone books to be murder mysteries, but I will admit missing the hunt and drama that accompanies Kinsey’s search for a killer. Instead, L is for Lawless tells the tale of how a seemingly simple quest to give a veteran a military burial turns out to be one of the oddest mysteries Kinsey’s ever unraveled.

To be honest, I’m not sure how I feel about this installment. I appreciated Grafton’s effort to shake it up, but Kinsey’s trek halfway across the country to unravel the truth about the veteran who wasn’t a veteran didn’t do it for me.

Kinsey herself felt disjointed, misplaced. From Dallas onward, it just didn’t feel like Kinsey. The odd situation and race against time didn’t showcase her character – instead, the landscape and weird family dynamics of the minor characters took over Lawless. Consequently, the rest of the story began to fall flat, and I found my mind wandering more often than not.

I would have loved more about Rosie and William’s wedding – the little glimpses Grafton shares were downright hilarious. As two well-loved recurring minor characters, I felt they deserved more of the story’s time.

Maybe L is for Lawless wasn’t a winner for me, but I’ll keep plugging away at the Kinsey’s stories. After loving the first 11 of them, maybe #12 was just a hiccup.

Posted August 4, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 1 Comment
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July 11, 2016

Review | The Fifth Gospel by Ian Caldwell

Review | The Fifth Gospel by Ian CaldwellThe Fifth Gospel by Ian Caldwell
Publisher: Simon & Schuster, March 2015
Pages: 431
Format: Hardcover
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A mysterious exhibit is under construction at the Vatican Museums. The curator is murdered at a clandestine meeting on the outskirts of Rome a week before it opens. That same night, a violent break-in rocks the home of Greek Catholic priest Father Alex Andreou. When the papal police fail to identify a suspect in either crime, Father Alex decides that to find the killer he must reconstruct the secret of what a little-known, true-to-life fifth gospel known as the Diatessaron reveals about the church’s most controversial holy relic. But just as he begins to understand the truth about his friend’s death and its consequences for the future of the Christian church, Father Alex discovers a ruthless stalker is hunting him—an enemy with a vested stake in the exhibit that he must outwit to survive.
Rich, authentic, erudite, and emotionally searing, The Fifth Gospel is a riveting novel of suspense and a feast of biblical history that satisfies on every level.

When Father Alex Andreou volunteers to help a new curator friend research the gospels to prepare for his new exhibit, he expects nothing extraordinary. Yet when his friend is killed in a mysterious meeting, Alex is pulled into a deep mystery involving the Shroud of Turin, a discovered fifth gospel, and more secrets the Vatican is desperately trying to hide. As Alex struggles to free his brother, arrested for murder, and uncover the truth, he will discover more than he ever expected.

I’m a sucker for religious history. The Da Vinci Code might have introduced me to the layers beneath the Catholic church, but it also launched a intense curiosity for all things religious (not just Christian, as you might have noticed). When I found The Fifth Gospel lingering on the shelf at the library, it felt like kismet.

To be frank, The Fifth Gospel is nothing like The Da Vinci Code. Caldwell tries to recreate the same fascinating mystery, the intense need to churn through the pages as quickly as possible, but the result is a little more lackluster. Don’t get me wrong – the plot is interesting enough, but not enough to hook me.

In fact, if it weren’t for the vast amounts of religious history, I probably would have chalked this book up to DNF and put it back in my library bag. Alex was interesting enough, but as much as I tried, I didn’t feel that connection with him, that investment. Why? He kept telling me how he felt, instead of showing me.

But the history…oh, it plucked my nerdy heartstrings. I know next to nothing about the Orthodox Church, but have been intrigued by it. I loved how Alex epitomized the differences between the two churches, even as a man (an Orthodox priest who worked for the Vatican) who belonged to both and neither at once. The light biblical theology and the heavy religious history piqued my curiosity enough to start delving into the history and traditions of the Orthodox.

Typically, the religious history/thriller fiction I’ve read portrays either a nameless or a fictional pope. I found Caldwell’s decision to use John Paul slightly unsettling. He isn’t depicted negatively – if anything, he’s a symbol of power – but the scenes with him yanked me out of the fictional world.

While The Fifth Gospel isn’t the heart-pounding, intense religious history/thriller I was hoping for, the amount of real history of examination of traditions makes up for it. If you’re looking for another Da Vinci Code, this book is a pass.

3 Stars

Posted July 11, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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