Racing the Devil: An Inspector Ian Rutledge Mystery
It’s the eve of the battle of the Somme. In a French barn, seven British officers, virtual strangers, are drinking wine procured by an enterprising sergeant. In an act of bravado, they pledge to meet in Paris one year after the war and race their cars to Nice. After this intriguing opening, the action flows fast and furious: one car in the race is almost rammed off the road; another crashes; and shortly thereafter, a third, owned by one of the officers but driven by a cleric, is pushed off a coastal road in Sussex. In steps Scotland Yard’s Inspector Rutledge, a man suffering from his own war demon, a disembodied voice offering free advice. The rest of the story tells how he figures out what connects these events, dealing, along the way, with an assortment of clues, some misleading, all perplexing, and a collection of locals, some helpful, others suspicious. Perhaps the risk-taking murderer attempts and accomplishes more than can be reasonably expected of any one individual, and perhaps the dialogue could be better differentiated according to the speaker’s social status, but these quibbles aside, Racing the Devil is a well-crafted and entertaining mystery. Definitely worth reading.
Upon discovering new evidence, a retired detective with months to live races to catch a high school track stars killer. Garnering the support of a PI firm, on-duty cops, and loved ones, the detective and allies face off against a ruthless manipulative psychopath to bring young Sydney Adams case to a successful close.
Cold-Blooded continues the trials and tribulations of Lisa Regans previous heroine last seen in Hold Still. Jocelyn Rush barely survived a horrific attack that left her, and her partner Anita, scarred. Rush left the force to focus on her daughter, but opening a PI firm to continue helping Philadelphias underserved citizens. A case is dropped in her lap by the nearly dead Augustus Knox. Knox lost everything he loved in the pursuit of Sydney Adams murderer. Discovering pictures that link Adams to the beloved Coach Cash Rigo, Knox implores Rush to help him solve the case before he dies. With just a theory and some weak evidence, Rush and Knox hound Coach Rigo in the hopes of forcing a confession. Between flashbacks and investigating, its soon made clear that there is a more sinister killer waiting in the wings for a time to strike.
Lisa Regan is clearly at the top of her game as a suspense novelist. The plotting is impeccable. Its difficult to determine the actual killer until nearly the last page. For instance, no spoilers, Coach Rigo had repeated affairs with underage girls. Everyone believes he must have been the killer, but just as evidence begins to mount the rug is ripped out from under everyone. Flashbacks to Rigos and other characters pasts help flesh out the story and add dramatic irony. The characters are dynamic and worn in, with strong backstories. Rush and her partner are carry-overs from a previous book, but Knox is such an interesting and tragic figure. He gave everything he had to find Adams killer and lost it all. Drunk, dying of various illnesses, he clings to life. With the dark and disturbing plot, the strong characters, and engaging prose, Cold-Blooded is not just a page-turner, the pages fly by on their own and you just have to hold on as it races to a stunning conclusion.
The Vermeer Conspiracy
Sabrina is a young Latina from Chicago who has beaten the odds at every turn to make a success of herself. Now shes at Yale on a scholarship and nearing graduation. Yale hasnt been a cakewalk either. Her freshman year she was raped by a professor, which she has kept secret from everyone, even her roommate, Danielle. The two couldnt have been more differentSabrina, dark, a little heavy, and an astronomy major who loves math, and Danielle, a willowy blonde majoring in art history with a special interest in Johannes Vermeer. Still, they become fast friends. But Danielles mentor, Prof. Verhaast, the foremost expert on Vermeer, was the very man who had raped Sabrina. When Danielle suddenly disappears, Sabrina keeps a few things of Danielles from police so she can solve the mystery herself. What she discovers is that Danielle has been trying to prove Vermeer was not the actual artist of his famous pieces. Its dangerous information. There have been other mysterious disappearances, all seemingly connected to Danielles Vermeer theory which, if proven, would be ruinous to Verhaast. But there is morea strange group that seems to have a hold over Verhaast and a convent with strange secrets. Can Sabrina really figure all of this out and perhaps even save Danielle?
Author Eytan Halaban has written a real thriller of a mystery with some wonderful art history thrown in to make a most interesting read. The writing is crisp and the pacing fast, characters are well-rounded and credible, the premise fascinating and completely believable, especially in the deft hands of Halaban. Its clear hes done good research, and yet he shows great imagination as well. The ending, however, is a bit weak and doesnt quite match the level of writing the rest of the book exhibits.
The Last Chapter
If ever there was a book that made you want to go back and read or re-read all of Charles Dickens classics, The Last Chapter by Lyn Squire is it. The story opens with the famed author struggling to get his final words to his latest piece of work The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Or at least that is what readers are led to believe. In truth, the author has realized he has been poisoned and is trying in vain to pen his final message to the world. His ever faithful housemaid Georgina works to cover up his assumed murder and employees the help of the well-meaning but often daft nephew of Charles Dickens, Dunston Burnett. She confides her theory of how she believes his uncle was murdered to only him. Georgina implores Dunston to utilize the hidden final three chapters of the book and the initial three to discover who murdered Charles Dickens. Eager to be of service, Dunston takes on the job and scours the pages as well as the people closest to his uncle to solve this mystery. The deeper Dunston digs, the more questions he comes across. When the characters and readers think the mystery has finally been solved, a whole new mystery develops before their eyes. Vagrants, lovers, hidden letters and more keep the readers hooked until the very last page when the true conclusion to all that was hidden is finally revealed.
Squires approach to this book is absolutely brilliant. As you begin the book readers are lead to believe it is a mystery where there is a slew of obvious charactersone of whom one will be revealed as the villain. However, Squire takes the story one step farther and adds an additional mystery closely linked to the initial mystery. His ability to not only link the two story lineswhich could have been two separate books easilyand blend the characters and clues to lead readers through a maze of not only who did the crime, but question their motives and identities. His reference to many of Dickens works throughout the novel and secrets they may hold made me, and I am sure will make others, want to read them again and look for clues, true or fictional, that were missed. This book is definitely a delightful and intriguing surprise and must not be missed!
The Schwarzschild Radius
After four months of dead-end searches, eighteen-year-old Rachel Wallen decides to take matters in her own hands to find her adopted sister, Olivia, who suddenly vanished out of thin air. Rachel heads to the homeless shelter, where Olivia used to be a volunteer counselor, and is admitted under a pseudonym in the hope that she can gain leads. A staff member shares disturbing news that Olivia had been making porn flicks just before she vanished. Even more disturbing, Rachel learns that Olivia has a twin, Achara, who is living in Thailand and trapped in the sex trade. Discovering the instant messages between the twins on Olivia’s PC, Rachel assumes Olivia’s identity to continue the conversation since she realizes that Olivia is Achara’s only means of escape. While Olivia apparently took care of Achara’s passport prior to her disappearance, Achara needs more than $2000 to get Achara to New York. Rachel’s decision to take a job at a local adult emporium to obtain fast cash leads her not only closer to solving Olivia’s whereabouts, but also into a deadly snare.
Rising and award winning author Gustavo Florentin has pulled out all the literary stops to create his second novel. Florentin’s third person narrative is a combination of well-developed characters, nonstop conflicts, and rich contrast. Florentin’s use of irony, undoubtedly, is a key literary tool that is prevalent throughout his plot. Good examples are found in his characters, such as Rachel and Father Massey. Rachel, who is a highly intelligent Ivy League student, acts like she left her brains behind when she decides to work in the sex industry. And then there is Father Massey whose life is not as holy as one expects. Florentin has a whole slew of characters, many who take on supporting roles and are deftly interwoven in scenes that alternate from chapter to chapter. Scenes shift between Rachel’s sleuthing, her communication with Achara via the internet, Fr. Massey and his dastardly deeds, Detective McKenna’s investigation, the enslaved Olivia, and the infamous Webmaster, just to name a few.
Amid the alternating character scenes that are filled with constant un-clichéd twists, Florentin incorporates a plethora of red herrings a lineup of sleazy characters to throw readers off from zeroing in on the story’s main antagonist. While readers are madly trying to figure out who the real culprit is, Florentin makes sure to keep his themes alive. Certainly the heaviest theme not only centers on the sex trade, but on the pervasive sadomasochistic culture that accompanies this industry. A second theme focuses on family dynamics, such as Rachel’s opinion of her parents and how she thinks they shower more love and attention to Olivia than Rachel. Another example is Detective McKenna whose ardent search to find and return Olivia to her heart sickened parents is a constant reminder of his strained relationship with his estranged daughter.
A great read, which is guaranteed to win an award, The Schwarzschild Radius is a top-rate thriller that is not only gripping and fast paced, but also a superb blend of crime with a touch of sci-fi.
The Odd Fellows Society
The Odd Fellows Society is one book not to be missed. When left an urgent message by his friend and colleague, Jasper, Father Santiago Torres agrees to meet him, but is left stood up by his friend and the new owner of a chicken bestowed upon him by an insistent Chinese woman. It is only later that Santiago learns that his friend did not stand him up, but that Jasper has died of an apparent suicide. Grief-stricken by the death of his friend, Santiago feels that it was not a suicide that killed Jasper and that there is more to his death than meets the eye. When he begins receiving cryptic messages from The Odd Fellows Society, he is led on a scavenger hunt that takes him through the monuments and mysteries of Washington, DC. Santiago believes these clues are being sent to him so that he can find the final copy of Jaspers thesis that apparently holds valuable information. With the help of his friend Abigail, Santiago follows the clues given to him by The Odd Fellows Society and uncovers information that goes back centuries. He also uncovers another secret society, called the Stewards, that may or may not still exist. The more he learns on his hunt helps him on his quest, but also begins to put himself and those closest to him in danger. Reluctant to accept help or heed the warnings of many, including his brother Nico, who is in the FBI, Santiago continues to follow the messages from The Odd Fellows Society. Relentless in his search, even as his job and life are on the line, Santiago knows that he must solve the clues for his friend and the greater good. Whether he will be able to do this and end up alive is uncertain at every turn.
C.G. Barrett has created an amazing book that combines so many genres it should have one of its own. The Odd Fellows Society is a mystery, a thriller, a romance, a treasure hunt, an adventure, historical fiction, and full of suspense at every turn. Barretts ability to combine all of these genres creates a book that truly keeps you guessing until the very end. There are times that you think you have it figured out and then he throws a curve ball, leaving readers reeling as to what just happened. Not only is the storyline strong and consistent throughout the book, the characters are all very well thought-out and written. You can tell that each character has a purpose and, while you may not know what it is right away, you know you need to remember them.
This book was exciting and thoroughly enjoyable to read, and I highly recommend it to anyone who likes a book that keeps you engaged.