When Pirio Kasporav and her friend Ned go sailing, they are struck by an unknown ship. Pirio survives the accident, but Ned does not and leaves behind Pirio’s wild friend Thomsina and son Noah. Over time, Pirio comes to believe that the accident was no accident. As she begins to investigate, she is approached by a former flame and a stranger who both try to become involved in her detective work. Pirio must determine friend from foe and struggle through personal issues in order to uncover the truth in Elizabeth Elo’s North of Boston.
I found this book to be an engaging read. Elo gave me enough clues to make me think I understood the direction of the book, but left enough hidden that I was always in for a surprise. I also liked Pirio as a character; she has a lot of brains and moxie, and I enjoyed that her interactions with the other characters were nuanced, revealing both her strengths and weaknesses. These interactions were just as enjoyable as the mystery itself, and, in a way, were their own mystery as I worked to understand Pirio and her world. If you are a fan of mysteries and Boston, I recommend this book.
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During World War II, the Rosati family, a well-off Tuscan family, struggled to maintain a semblance of normalcy as the Nazis struggle out the last days of their reign. The Rosati family is caught in that final firefight and fall from glory, their estate in flames. In 1955, someone has begun to kill off the remainder of the family. Detective Serafina, who has scars of her own, is assigned to protect the remaining Rosatis and catch the murderer before he finishes off the entire family.
Bohjalian’s novel is an exciting foray into life in Italy during the second World War II. Like in Sandcastle Girls, Bohjalian brings to life a unique perspective on a significant piece of history. Bohjalian is skilled at creating sympathetic characters, and this book was no different. The murder mystery added an extra dollop of excitement. This book was a treat to read, and I highly recommend it for mystery lovers and historical aficionados alike.
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Readers might remember when I reviewed Johnson’s The Name of the Star. Well, this time, we’ll turn our attention to The Madness Underneath, the sequel to The Name of the Star. After her traumatic encounter with the Ripper, Rory has remained under the sheltered care of her parents and therapist in Bristol. Abruptly, however, Rory’s therapist says she can go back to Wexford and her friends. Rory jumps at the chance and returns to the courses and social life that makes up Wexford. However, a series of mysterious deaths and cracks in the floor, along with a new ability, plunges Rory into a new supernatural mystery.
I enjoyed this sequel. I actually had no idea that it was out and happened across it during another browsing session at my public library, and I’m actually disappointed it wasn’t better promoted, as I really enjoyed the first one. Johnson has maintained the suspenseful nature and creative supernatural elements that made the first book so enjoyable to read. I enjoyed Rory quite a bit in this second book. As a character, she felt more solid to me, more involved in the actual telling plot. The book has added some exciting elements and plot elements that hopefully will be resolved in the upcoming books. All in all, this was an exciting, well-built sequel, and, as a result, I’m looking forward to the third book (The Shadow Cabinet, out next year).
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Over the last month or so, I have been on a bit of a mystery binge. I’m really picky about mysteries–I enjoy them, but they’re usually has to be a pretty compelling reason for me to read one. The murder with suave detective formula doesn’t do it for me. However, I recently came across several that I’ve just plowed through (Lauren Beukes’ The Shining Girls being one). I’d like to bring to everyone’s attention the Department Q series by Danish writer Jussi Adler-Olsen. The Keeper of Lost Causes introduces Carl, a Copenhagen detective who returns to the job following the loss of his partners during a murder investigation. Surly and difficult, Carl gets himself elected the head of newly formed Department Q, who handles cold-cases. Joined by precocious assistant Assad, Carl investigates his first case, the disappearance of a female politician.
The Department Q books possess a strong omniscient viewpoint. The Keeper of Lost Causes–as well sequels The Absent One and A Conspiracy of Faith*--follow both Carl as well as the guilty/involved parties. In The Keeper, this plays out by introducing you to Carl and Assad, as well as showing the experiences of the missing politician following her kidnapping. This viewpoint both introduces all involved parties and superbly builds up to the inevitable encounter between the Department Q and the opposing parties in all three books. As a result, the books are quick reads–it only took me a few weeks to read all three books available in English.
I also give Adler-Olsen full credit for creating well-rounded and engaging characters for these stories. Carl is a huge jerk, but Adler-Olseen’s additional details about him and his situation make him ultimately sympathetic. My favorite character is Assad with his brains, zingy one-liners, and incredible fighting skills. For me, there is the added nostalgic pleasure of reading stories set in Denmark, where I spent a semester abroad. In short, if you’re looking for a gritty, action-paced mystery series, these are the books for you.
*The Absent One is the second book and follows the search for a homeless woman related to a string of violent crimes. In A Conspiracy of Faith, Carl and co. investigate missing children from religious communities.
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In 1931, Chicago is in the midst of the Great Depression. Following his sufferance of a grave injury, Harper finds a house. Within the house is a room, where he first encounters the Shining Girls. All of these girls are spread across different time periods, but, with the House, Harper can go to them. He goes to their time periods and kills them to snuff out their light before he disappears back into time. It’s all going wonderfully until one survives, and she goes after Harper to put a stop to him.
After taking some time to adjust to Beukes’ prose, which I found a bit clunky, I became quite engrossed in Lauren Beukes’ The Shining Girls. The concept of the House is scary awesome–even though it’s not hard to make serial killers scary and hard to catch (Zodiac killer and Jack the Ripper to name a few examples), but this way is pretty unique and will likely to especially draw in people who like to read across genres. The plot accelerates quickly with active characters to move it quickly along. Kirby, Harper’s nemesis, is an extremely vital character, and I loved her for both her personality and the fact that Beukes did not cast her a victim. Reckless? Yes. Fiery-tempered? Yes. Helpless victim? Not so much. It was awesome.
I felt like things unraveled at the end–I’m not sure if it was because of what was going on in the plot or certain concepts hadn’t been well enough established early on, but the ending sort of fell flat at the end. Nevertheless, this is a fun, quick mystery with a unique sci-fi twist that should interest plenty of readers.
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Following the events of I Hunt Killers, Jazz Dent, son of notorious serial killer Billy Dent, continues to look to prove himself. He’d also like to move to the next step with his girlfriend, Connie, but being the son of Billy Dent complicates things for Jazz. However, crime never sleeps, and there is a new serial killer stalking and murdering on the streets of New York. Thanks to his role in the Impressionist case, the NYPD taps Jazz to work on the case. Soon, Jazz is walking the bustling and unfamiliar streets to catch this new killer. Does Jazz have what it takes to catch this killer?
I greatly enjoyed I Hunt Killers and was just as impressed by Game. Lyga expertly portrays the gritty (and gory) details to suck you right into the story. The plot twists and turns, and you constantly question whether you fully understand what’s going on. There were several points where I thought I knew the answer, but Lyga quickly buried me in new information that made me doubt whether I had it right. The characters were great–Jazz had some great character development. As a reader, I liked seeing more of his vulnerability but thought Lyga also made you doubt him as well. Billy continues to be one of the most scarily written characters I’ve come across. Just like I Hunt Killers, one should exercise caution when giving this to younger teens, but older teens and adults alike will enjoy this new book by Barry Lyga. I’m looking forward to seeing where this series is going.
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